If the Nashville Predators proved anything to hockey bettors during their 2016-17 playoff run they certainly proved that anything is possible in a league ripe with parody, driven by a hard salary cap. A hot goalie and a rabid fan base can sometimes carry a No. 16 seed all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.
For futures bettors, that means you don't always have to take teams near the top of the futures board, there is value to be sniped further down the list if you can catch that lightning in a bottle.
With that in mind, we look at three NHL futures wagers you could make for next year’s Stanley Cup playoffs, and a value alternative that you should consider. You never know, you could surprise yourself with a big payout next June.
NHL futures bet you want to make: Predators 14/1
NHL futures bet you should make: Senators 30/1
The Preds came within two wins of shocking the entire hockey world and hoisting Lord Stanley's mug before falling to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games. While the Predators certainly are not at the top of the futures board to win next season's championship, they are way higher than they would be if they hadn't made their shocking playoff run.
With all of the betting value sucked out of Nashville, a strong alternative could be the Ottawa Senators. The Sens also had a Cinderella run during last year's playoffs, losing to the eventual Stanley Cup champions in the Eastern Conference final.
The Senators have a great goaltender in Craig Anderson, a strong defensive corp capable of putting the puck in the net led by captain Erik Karlsson, and a veteran group of forwards with the skill set necessary for another deep playoff run.
NHL futures bet you want to make: Lightning 10/1
NHL futures bet you should make: Islanders 40/1
The Tampa Bay Lightning spent most of the 2016-17 season without perennial MVP candidate Steven Stamkos and missed the playoffs by a single point. Since then the Bolts have shipped off goaltender Ben Bishop (handing the job to Andrei Vasilevskiy) and sent potential 70-plus point producer Jonathan Drouin packing for Montreal.
The Lightning are currently second on the futures odds table (tied with the Edmonton Oilers and Washington Capitals) at 10/1 to win next season's Stanley Cup and, to be perfectly honest, there is absolutely no way they can be recommended at that price.
If you like what Tampa Bay brings to the table but you don't like the betting value, the New York Islanders may be the team for you. The Islanders are a team that is built around a superstar forward, has a good supporting cast (and just added Jordan Eberle from the Edmonton Oilers in a draft week trade), has a solid top four defensive unit, and employs a largely unproven starting goaltender in Thomas Greiss. All of this sounds very similar to what the Lightning bring to the table, but the Isles are available at 40/1.
NHL futures bet you want to make: Blackhawks 12/1
NHL futures bet you should make: Sharks 20/1
We're not going to use this space to drag the Chicago Blackhawks through the mud. They are a very good hockey team, but the real fact is that they have been dumped from the Stanley Cup playoffs in the opening round in each of the last two seasons.
You could lay your money on them to hoist the cup next season and feel good about it at 12/1. Or you could look a little bit further down the list and find even better value.
The San Jose Sharks are available for wagering at 20/1 to win the 2017-18 Stanley Cup. They are a veteran-led squad with a high offensive upside, Brent Burns is the best defenseman in the Western Conference, and Martin Jones has a better ceiling than Corey Crawford between the pipes. Sure, the Sharks were also bounced in the first round of this year's playoffs but in 2015-16, with essentially the same core, they made it all of the way to the Stanley Cup final before losing to the Penguins in six games.
The NHL has transitioned into a speed first league so the Sharks will have to get faster during free agency, but if they can add some quickness they will remain a threat in the West.