Most underrated NHL teams in the hunt for Lord Stanley

Winning the Stanley Cup’s one of the most difficult achievements in professional sports. Lifting the cup three years in a row is next to impossible, even for a team as dominant and talented as the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are listed as strong favorites in the NHL futures market to earn the three-peat during the 2017-18 season.

The Edmonton Oilers and Chicago Blackhawks round out the top three for NHL futures in 2017, challenging the Penguins supremacy out of the highly competitive Western Conference. In doing so, sportsbooks have underestimated the following five NHL franchises, which have a much greater chance of winning the Stanley Cup than the odds reflect.

Ottawa Senators +4000

The Ottawa Senators were the classic example of a team gelling to become more than the sum of their parts. Several Sens stepped up their game as adversity mounted throughout the season, and the team took flight in the playoffs. They were one game away from qualifying for the Stanley Cup finals, losing to the eventual champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

Other than the loss of defenseman Marc Methot, the Senators have remained largely intact, adding forward depth with the acquisition of Nate Thompson. As long as Erik Karlsson continues to be a perennial MVP and Norris trophy candidate, Ottawa has a far better chance to win the cup as a dark horse than the sportsbooks suggest.

San Jose Sharks +2500

Only two years removed from a Stanley Cup finals appearance, the San Jose Sharks lost Patrick Marleau to the Toronto Maple Leafs, signaling a change of the guard for the franchise. Despite the loss of Marleau, San Jose’s still boasts a deep group of forwards, including young guns looking to earn a spot as a top six player alongside Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Joe Thornton and Jannik Hansen.

Brent Burns will continue to patrol the blue line for the Sharks, shutting down opposing teams while outscoring most forwards in the league. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, an advanced stats stud, gives San Jose a top-two pairing on par with most teams in the NHL, and Martin Jones has proven to be a reliable backstop. Since they have all the ingredients necessary for a deep playoff run, the Sharks provide great betting value for the 2017-18 season.

Nashville Predators +1400

Compared to Nashville, do you believe that the Maple Leafs, Ducks, Oilers, Capitals, Lightning, Stars and Blackhawks have about the same chance to win the Stanley Cup during the 2017-18 season? The Predators didn’t break much of a sweat rising to the finals last year, but sportsbooks believe that those seven teams enjoy roughly the same odds to win it all.

The Pittsburgh Penguins should be considered favorites, but it’s difficult to see how the Dallas Stars and Edmonton Oilers have a better shot at a ring than the Predators. Nashville has a fantastic group of young, speedy forwards, along with one of the deepest blue lines in the NHL. As such, the Predators should probably be ranked at least third most likely to win the cup. Take the moneyline before the incredible current value shrinks, especially if the Preds start the regular season with a bang.

St. Louis Blues +2800

The St. Louis Blues jettisoned power play sparkplug Kevin Shattenkirk last year, which might make the Blues blueline better defensively. Alex Pietrangelo still leads the defensive squad, along with stalwart Jay Bouwmeester, and the hulking Colton Parayko could step into a larger role next year. Perhaps more important for the franchise, goalie Jake Allen proved that he could carry the team through the playoffs by defeating Minnesota in the first round.

St. Louis also has a deep group of forwards, including the dynamic Vladimir Tarasenko. Great goaltending and depth throughout the lineup will serve this franchise well in 2017-18, and their long odds don’t reflect this fact.

New York Rangers +1600

The New York Rangers had quite a bit of difficulty with their defensive rotation last year, specifically, the lack of scoring from the blueline. They solved this problem by acquiring Kevin Shattenkirk as a free agent, who should contribute plenty of power play points throughout the season. New York’s overhauled defense will reap benefits, and Henrik Lundqvist showed he can still tend goal with the best, beating Carey Price in the playoffs last season.

The Rangers don’t have a scoring superstar, but make up for it with a balanced attack - ten forwards scored eleven or more goals last season. Now that the blueline is stable, overall scoring should rise along with defensive efficiency, making the Rangers a better bet for a run to the Stanley Cup finals than the moneyline implies.

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