Ice hockey across the globe was spared an unexpected upset recently thanks to Canada's ability to come back from the brink to beat Europe in the World Cup, which should bode well for this season's NHL action.
Although the fortunes of one nation won't define the season, the fact that many of the league's top players were able to reassert their dominance just goes to show the depth of quality in the NHL.
Indeed, with the likes of Boston Bruins stars Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand scoring decisive goals, there's no doubt that NHL fans will be in for some impressive displays of skill in the coming months.
Of course, as is customary before the start of any new season, fans, tipsters and pundits are all trying to gaze into the future and make their own NHL predictions. Unsurprisingly, the weight of expectation heading into the start of the 2016/2016 NHL season on 12 October currently sits upon the shoulders of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Although there haven't been back-to-back Stanley Cup winners since the Detroit Red Wings did it in 1997 and 1998, many believe the Penguins could clinch it this year. According to Fox Sports, "you shouldn't bet against them" because they have one of the world's best players: Sidney Crosby.
Of course, pinning the hopes of a team on one player is never a good idea, but when you consider the fact that the Penguins' top players, including Phil Kessel and Kris Letang, are all aged 30 or younger, there's plenty of ammunition in the tank.Could the Penguins do it again?
With a string of strong players still in their prime, it's certainly possible, but it won't be easy. In fact, according to NetBet's oddsmakers, the chance of a repeat for the Penguins is 8/1, which makes them second to the outright favourites, the Washington Capitals (15/2).
If the analysts and oddsmakers are putting some serious stock into the Penguins, they should certainly be on your radar this season. But who else is in the mix? Can the Lightning's young squad make the push or will the familiar Blackhawks find their way back to the top of the league?
The best bets for the 2016/2017 season fall into two categories: conference and division betting. As is often the case in NHL betting markets, conference success often tallies with outright success, which is why you should be constantly looking for trends throughout the season.
Indeed, while it's possible to make Stanley Cup predictions now, things could change as the season unfolds. Considering conference and division betting can help avoid the picking a season outright winner before the the first game, a risk some punters simply won't take.
Use the following teams as a starting point and look for the best odds now, but don't be afraid to move with the tide. You can bet on the Penguins right now with the current odds, but if the New York Rangers start to make a late surge, then be sure to scour the markets and seize some unexpected value.
A strong team that impressed in 2014/2015 and were unlucky last season, Lightening are the top pick this time around according to some experts. Despite missing three key players (Steven Stamkos, Anton Stralman and Ben Bishop) last season, Tampa's finest still got to the Eastern Conference Final where it took a Stanley Cup winning Penguins side to beat them.
The 2016/2017 NHL season will see the side's top players return and that, according to some, could make it Lightning's year. Of course, if Stamkos exercises his right to leave as a free agent then it will hurt the team's offence. However, if he stays, 10/1 Stanley Cup odds at Coral and 5/4 Division odds at bet365 look extremely attractive.
A look at NetBet's Stanley Cup betting market reveals an intriguing 9/1 price for the Blackhawks. Despite a loss to the St. Louis Blues back in the spring, Chicago still has one of the best rosters in the league and that could pay dividends this season.
Naturally, for the Blackhawks to stand any chance of lifting the cup they'll need to come through the Central Division unscathed. Assuming they can do this (31/10 odds at bet365 say they can) and avoid any injuries, there's no reason Joel Quenneville's men can't make a serious run at the game's most prestigious trophy.
Currently the outright NHL betting favourites for the Stanley Cup with Coral at 8/1, many experts fancy the Capitals' chances this season. While some reporters see this as a "now or never" season for the Washington side, the return of some key players means there will be high level of quality across the ice. Indeed, with TJ Oshie and Justin Williams leading the way with their skill and experience, this season could prove to be a breakout year for rising stars Andrei Burakovsky, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Marcus Johansson.
All three youngsters were impressive last season, so with more strength, speed and experience behind them this time around, they could easily produce something special. If the Capitals can capture lightening in a bottle and the roster knits together like a well-crafted glove, then bet365's 8/5 Metropolitan Division odds are hugely attractive, as is the Stanley Cup betting line at 15/2.
The 2016/2017 NHL season looks set to be another high octane, high drama affair. Here at Gambling.com you'll find all the latest odds and action. Beyond this betting guide, here are some top NHL betting tips, as well as instant access to the best NHL bookmakers in the business.
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