A Pacific Division Team Will Surprise
The NHL's Pacific Division produced three playoff-caliber teams and a Stanley Cup finalist last year. But the lower tier of the division was less than impressive. There was a 20-point difference between third-place San Jose Sharks and fourth-place Arizona. One of those lower-tier teams should break through into the playoffs and bring profit for their NHL betting backers. Here are the three return contenders, plus one I believe will make a surprising breakthrough.
The Ducks were in fact mighty last year, and division champs with 46 wins. They should be up there again in 2016-17. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry head up a deep offensive look, and Cam Fowler once again anchors a solid defense. The team that ranked high in almost every major category should be back strong.
San Jose Sharks
We know the story of the Sharks' surprising drive to the finals after placing third in the division. Then in those finals, the Sharks were dominated by the Pittsburgh Penguins. They have sought to correct some of the things that failed them against Pittsburgh, namely adding David Schlemko to shore up the defense, and signing on Mikkel Boedker to provide speed at left wing. Look for them to make a serious push to return to the finals again.
They were second in the division, a single point behind the Ducks, then were bludgeoned in five games by the Sharks. You can bet that didn't set too well with a team that just three years ago hoisted the Cup themselves. They've had some setbacks, though, with Milan Lucic being shipped out in a trade, and Marian Gaborik going down with an injury that will have him out until December. But they still score points for a solid defense, and two of the best at their positions, center Anze Kopitar and goalie Jonathan Quick.
Many believe the team that finished at the bottom of the division still isn't ready. I think they are. They made some off-season moves to make them a lot better. Now their top six forwards are elite class. Centers Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will anchor solid lines, and Adam Larsson has been added to a defense which should improve. Look for the Oilers to score some NHL game betting upsets early.
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