NHL 2023-24 Division Winner Predictions, Betting Odds & Best Bets: Maple Leafs and Oilers get over the hump
The first 3 games to get the 2023-24 NHL season started tonight feature at least one team from all four divisions, so what better time to provide our division winner predictions? It’s been a different division to win the past three Stanley Cups, and all 4 have been represented across the last 6 teams to hoist the Stanley Cup. So, our division winner predictions below very well could correlate to this year’s champion. Let’s dive into our picks, but make sure you check out our NHL predictions for tonight’s games and every game throughout the season.
Atlantic Division winner: Toronto Maple Leafs (+175)
Let’s get things started in the Eastern Conference, and more specifically, the Atlantic. It only seems fitting to begin there, as this year may make or break the Tampa Bay Lightning’s recent dynasty. They’ve made three of the last four Stanley Cups but will be starting this season without arguably the best goaltender in the world — Andrei Vasilevskiy.
That’s a major factor and why we don’t have them even winning the division, let alone the Cup. The Boston Bruins are coming off a historic season, but lost Captain Patrice Bergeron to retirement. So, we have our eyes on the Toronto Maple Leafs. They have the second-shortest odds to win it all, as their core remains intact.
It’s one led by Auston Matthews and one that has been expected to advance much further than they have thus far. However, they finally got their first postseason series win since 2004 last season, and with new faces in the front office, this is the year they can get over the next hump and make a run to at least the Eastern Conference Finals.
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Metropolitan Division winner: New Jersey Devils (+240)
It’s no surprise to see the Carolina Hurricanes as the favorites to win the Metro, but we’re eyeing last year’s surprise team. The New Jersey Devils pulled off one of the best year-to-year turnarounds in NHL history and nearly met the Hurricanes in the Conference Finals after finishing just a single point behind them in the standings.
Carolina is no doubt a strong team, but they just aren’t as balanced as we’d like. They’re far too defensively focused, whereas the Devils have a great blend of both. Their offense is led by Jack Hughes, who at just 21 years old recorded 99 points last season. Now 22, he looks primed for multiple Hart Trophies in his career.
The Devils also retained Timo Meier, who they acquired from the San Jose Sharks at the trade deadline last season. Jack’s younger brother, Luke, now has experience to help the defensive end of the ice alongside Dougie Hamilton. We don’t see last year as a fluke and instead see New Jersey edging out the ‘Canes.
Central Division winner: Minnesota Wild (+650)
The Central is where we’ll provide a bit of a longshot division winner while also being more realistic than the odds would suggest. It’s the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche who are expected to compete for the division.
However, like the Hurricanes, the Stars need to generate more offense to get more balanced, and the Avs will yet again be without Gabriel Landeskog. His knee injury is becoming career-threatening at this point, and Colorado struggled to open the year last season. It wasn’t until the last week of the season that they snatched the Central from the Stars.
As for the Wild, they have one of the best young skaters in Kirill Kaprizov. He missed time due to injury last season, but when he’s healthy, he’s an absolute stud. It was his only long stint on the injured list, so we’re confident he’ll have another great season. Along with their explosive offense, Minnesota finally found their goaltender. Filip Gustavsson had the second-best save percentage among regular starting goalies last year, finishing behind only Vezina Trophy-winner Linus Ullmark.
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Pacific Division winner: Edmonton Oilers (+165)
The last of our division winners is a favorite, but for good reason. The fact that oddsmakers are higher on the Oilers than the defending Stanley Cup-champion Vegas Golden Knights speaks volumes in itself.
The fact of the matter is that they have a duo that generates offense equivalent to entire teams. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl finished the year as the top two point-scorers yet again — 153 and 128, respectively. They’ll also have Evander Kane back, who missed significant time due to a gruesome slice via an opponent’s skate.
Like the Wild, they needed to figure out who they wanted to be their netminder. They’re rolling with Stuart Skinner, who had his first full season last year. In Edmonton’s two playoff wins over the Knights, Skinner allowed just one goal and his save percentage was just below that of Gustavsson’s. Just as we see the Leafs getting over the hump, we see the same for the Oilers. Perhaps we see them in the 2024 Stanley Cup Final.