The NHL may be No. 4 among the four major professional sports leagues in North America, but there’s no debate about the most important trophy in all of sports: the Stanley Cup. Children dream about it. And so do the players on all the 31 teams skating into the 2017-18 regular season. Not only is the Stanley Cup the world’s oldest and most revered trophy, it’s also the most difficult to win. You can tell how difficult it is to win by looking at the 2018 Stanley Cup odds; there are at least a dozen viable contenders this year, led by the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins and the Edmonton Oilers at +800.

The Penguins are the first NHL team to win back-to-back Stanley Cups since the Detroit Red Wings pulled it off in 1997 and 1998. They now have three Cups with Sidney Crosby as their leader; Crosby is still one of the very best players in the league at age 30, and he’s surrounded with proven talent like Evgeni Malkin (like Crosby, a former Hart Trophy winner), Phil Kessel, Justin Schultz and Matt Murray. But if the Penguins are going to stay on top of the futures odds, they’re going to have to fight off the Oilers – and the new alpha male in the NHL.


Oil and Gold

That would be Connor McDavid. The first overall pick from the 2015 Draft has already become the top player in the league, winning the Hart Trophy last year and leading the Oilers to the postseason for the first time since 2005-06. That was Crosby’s rookie campaign with the Penguins; he also won the Hart in his sophomore season, but it took another two years before the Pens won the Cup. McDavid might have to wait his turn, too. The Oilers are loaded with emerging stars like Leon Draisaitl, Oscar Klefbom and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, all 24 or younger like McDavid. A little more seasoning is usually required before a team is truly ready to take over the NHL betting lines.

The Oilers and Penguins could end up meeting in the Stanley Cup Final, but there are so many other contenders on the NHL futures market, we’re more likely to see someone else crash the party – as the Nashville Predators did last year. The Predators are one of five teams tied at +1400 on this year’s Stanley Cup odds list, behind the Tampa Bay Lightning (+1100) and Chicago Blackhawks (+1200).

At least one of these teams is almost certain to rise up the NHL Stanley Cup futures market as we get closer to the playoffs. And there are several third-tier contenders worth considering, like the New York Rangers (+1600) and Montreal Canadiens (+2500). Get ready for a wild and woolly season of NHL betting; it’s going to be a great year for hockey.


*Odds as of October 2, 2017