If you plan on diving into some NHL futures this season, there’s no time like the present.
Bovada has released plenty of NHL futures worth your time, some of which include odds for the winners of certain statistical categories. In sum, there are five stats that I’ll be touching on in this piece. Keep in mind that I included the ‘NHL goals leader’ stat as the Rocket Richard Trophy winner in my recently released 2019-20 NHL Awards Predictions piece. Like I did with that piece, I will be listing a winner and value pick for each category below.
Now, let’s get to it and see if we can cash in on some stat futures from the NHL regular season!
The most assist category features co-favorites as both Connor McDavid and Nikita Kucherov are listed at +200 to pace the league in assists. It makes complete sense as they were the top two assist men in the league last season, although it wasn’t very close as Kucherov led the league with 87 assists and McDavid checked in behind him with 75.
Winner: Connor McDavid
All due respect to Kucherov and his elite goal-scoring pals in Tampa Bay, I find it hard to bet against McDavid in this department. I picked him to win both the Art Ross race and Hart Trophy in my aforementioned NHL Awards piece, and he will do both on the back of an insanely-high assist (and point) total.
First, the Lightning and Kucherov probably maxed out their production in the 2018-19 season. The team was one of the most successful regular season teams of all-time while Kucherov’s point total went from 100 in 2017-18 all the way to 128 last season. I just don’t see a repeat of that success.
McDavid might have a diamond in the rough in James Neal on his wing this season, or he may simply dominate the opposition alongside 2018-19 50-goal man Leon Draisaitl. Whichever the case, chalk me up for No. 97 to pace the league in helpers.
Value Pick: Mitch Marner
Marner has been a big topic of discussion this offseason from a contract standpoint, and after receiving his lucrate six-year deal from the Maple Leafs one day into training camp, now is the time to go out and prove your worth.
As expected, Marner and center John Tavares hooked up for plenty of success last season with Tavares scoring a career-high 47 goals thanks in large part to Marner’s elite play-making abilities that saw him post 68 assists, good for fourth in the league. The duo will reunite on a line again this season and Marner should remain a key cog in a dangerous Maple Leafs power play unit that also includes Rocket Richard candidate Auston Matthews and 72-point man from a season ago Morgan Rielly on the blueline.
In other words, Marner will be skating with elite NHL talent in all offensive situations this season and at just 22 years of age, there’s plenty of room from growth.
Most Penalty Minutes
This category used to be a lot more fun in the 90s, depending on how you look at the reduction in fighting and physical play in general across the NHL.
From penalty minute totals that reached the 300s back in the day, the NHL’s penalty minute leader from last season was Evander Kane who racked up 153 PIMs despite also recording a 30-goal season. The usual suspects remain, including the lightning rod Tom Wilson who finished second with 128 PIMs despite skating in just 63 games, so let’s see if we can see who the biggest goon in the 2019-20 season will be.
Winner: Tom Wilson
He’s the favorite at +230, but I still see value in those odds for the player who racked up the most PIMs per game of anyone who skated in at least 60 contests a season ago.
Wilson actually racked up 187 PIMs in the 2017-18 season behind Florida’s Michael Haley, but Haley’s not likely to find an NHL roster spot on anything close to a full-time basis this season. Antoine Roussel is a decent candidate here too as he’s right up there in back-to-back seasons, but I could see him sitting as a healthy scratch at times this season on a budding Canucks offense.
Value Pick: Nick Ritchie
If you want to throw a flier out there, grab Ritchie at the steepest odds possible at +2800.
Although he’s just 23 years old himself and capable of offense with a career-high 14 goals set in the 2016-17 season, there’s a good chance Ritchie spends a good chunk of his season taking care of the Ducks’ young group of forwards, including the likes of Sam Steel, Ondrej Kase, Troy Terry, and Maxime Comtois.
Ritchie amassed 82 penalty minutes in just 60 games worth of action last season which would give him 112 over a full 82-game season at that pace. He’s also increased his PIM total, along with his ice time, in every season throughout his four-year NHL career. He’s worth a sprinkle at these odds in what should be a lost year for the Ducks.
As opposed to goals against average, save percentage is more of a personal stat for a goaltender where GAA can be a reflection of team defense and goaltending, combined.
In other words, we should be looking at pure goaltending here and picking who we think the best goaltender overall is while putting much less stock into the group of defenders in front of him, although that does help.
Winner: Ben Bishop
As I noted in my NHL Awards piece, I personally felt Bishop was robbed of the Vezina last season as he topped Andrei Vasilevskiy in GAA, Sv% and shutouts but started eight less games and had fewer wins. However, the Stars proved they were a stout defensive group under first-year head coach Jim Montgomery and given Bishop’s career consistency in this department I like what I see.
Esa Lindell, John Klingberg, Miro Heiskanen, and Roman Polak could form one of the more underrated top-four groups in the NHL, but boy were they effective last season in helping hold opponents to an average of just 2.44 goals per game – by far second best in the league.
Bishop stood on his head to the tune of a 1.98 GAA and 934 SV% in the process. Furthermore, the guy owns a career 2.30 GAA and .921 Sv%. He won this category last season and I’ll look for a repeat this year.
Value Pick: Pekka Rinne
Unlike many of the props available, there isn’t much separation in the odds from front to back. Vasilevskiy is the favorite at +500 and Colorado’s Philipp Grubauer is the longest shot available at just +1200.
Still, Rinne has a chance. At 37 in November, he can be viewed as no longer being in his prime, but I’m expecting less of a workload with backup Juuse Saros owning a very nice 2.49 GAA and .920 Sv% across three seasons plus a game of relief. They will continue to groove Saros as their goaltender of the future.
Less could be more for the 2017-18 Vezina-winning Rinne. He fell to a .918 Sv% last season – his exactly career mark – after posting a .927 mark in his Vezina-winning season. However, he’s been consistent when healthy and still plays behind one of the best defensive teams in hockey.
Give me the ageless wonder to surprise to the upside this season.
Shots on Goal
To me, this is a fun one. There’s a strong group of candidates to pace the league in shots as seven players cracked the 300-shot barrier last season with Nathan MacKinnon leading the way with a whopping 365 shots on goal. These guys like to fire plenty of rubber and I look forward to combing through the candidates in this category.
Winner: Tyler Seguin
For me, we need to pick someone who is annually above the 300-shot mark, as opposed to someone like Patrick Kane who finished second last season with 341 shots but has never previously fired more than the 292 shots he took in the 2016-17 season.
Although Ovechkin is a solid pick at +240 as the favorite, I’ll go with Seguin who is an absolute shot on goal machine. After putting 335 pucks on goal two seasons ago, Segin followed that up with an almost-identical 334 last season. It was the third consecutive season he has eclipsed 300 shots on goal.
Winger Alexander Radulov is a play-maker by nature, so Seguin has someone to get him the puck on top of the back-end wizardry from Klingberg and Heiskanen. Over the last three seasons, Seguin’s 970 shots on goal are second-most in the league and just 36 shots behind Ovechkin in that span. I’ll take Seguin for the upset.
Value Pick: Auston Matthews
I expect this to be a breakout season for Matthews, something that sounds weird from a player that ranks fifth league wide with 111 goals over the last three seasons despite missing 34 games in that time.
After firing 279 shots in 82 games as a rookie in 2016-17, Matthews fell to just 187 in an injury-plagued 2017-18 season. However, despite missing another 14 games last season, Matthews managed a whopping 251 shots on goal, a pace that puts him at 303 shots for a full season. Sure, it took significantly more to win the shots title last season, however, I’m expecting significant growth in all departments from the American pivot this season.
He’ll be shooting the puck a ton on the power play and if William Nylander can indeed bounce back on his right wing this season, the chemistry should be alive and well. The recently-turned 22-year old provides quality value if that career-year can take place.
This category is one that has much less to do with the goaltender himself but rather the team he plays on. I mean, projected workload is a huge factor here to begin with, as is health concerns and projected team points.
As a result, my winner is clear but I also have a value pick in mind as well.
Winner: Andrei Vasilevskiy
Sure, I don’t expect the Lightning to re-write the record books again this season, but I do expect them to be very, very good and their No. 1 goaltender should get a good crack at leading the league in wins again this season.
Considering Vasilevskiy started just 53 games last season and still managed to win a league-high 39 times is telling enough. Although he has a reliable backup in Curtis McElhinney behind him, Vasilevskiy is going to start 60 or more games this season given he’s only 25 years old and entering the prime of his career.
This one is an easy one for me. Take a starting goaltender playing on the best team possible. The fact he’s coming off a Vezina win doesn’t hurt, either.
Value Pick: Sergei Bobrovsky
If workload is the best way to do this, than Bobrovsky needs to be given consideration at valuable +1000 odds.
Despite being 30 years old at this point, I expect at least 65 starts for the Russian goaltender. The presumed backup in Florida will be 22-year-old Samuel Montembeault, a veteran of just 11 NHL appearances – all coming last season. Montembeault posted a 3.04 GAA and .894 Sv% in those 11 appearances, but more concerning might be the 3.24 GAA and .899 Sv% he put together at the AHL level prior to his late-season promotion.
With a young and unproven backup behind him, Bobrovsky is likely in for a massive workload in his first season in Sunrise. If the Panthers can take that big step forward that is expected with his arrival along with legendary head coach Joel Quenneville, than Bobrovsky has a realistic shot at a career-year that includes pacing the league in wins.