Avalanche, Golden Knights Open as Betting Favorites in 2021-22 Stanley Cup Odds

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVJuly 8, 2021

Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (29) in the third period of Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series Monday, May 17, 2021, in Denver. Colorado won 4-1. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

On the heels of the Tampa Bay Lightning beating the Montreal Canadiens to win the 2020-21 Stanley Cup on Wednesday, the Colorado Avalanche opened as favorites to win the 2021-22 Stanley Cup.

DraftKings lists the Avalanche as +500 (5-1) favorites to win next season's Stanley Cup, followed by the Vegas Golden Knights at +600 (6-1) and Lightning at +700 (7-1).

With Wednesday's Game 5 win over Montreal, Tampa Bay became the first team to win back-to-back Stanley Cups since the Pittsburgh Penguins won two in a row in 2016 and 2017.

Colorado has been one of the best regular-season teams in the NHL in recent years, reaching the playoffs in each of the past three campaigns.

Last season, the Avs won the Presidents' Trophy given to the team with the most regular-season points, as they went 39-13-4, which was good for 82 points.

After leading the NHL in goals scored with 197, the Avalanche were viewed as strong candidates to go the distance and win the Stanley Cup, but they fell in the second round of the playoffs for the second consecutive season, losing to the Golden Knights in six games.

Despite their playoff shortcomings, there is reason to believe the Avalanche can bounce back and win it all next season, and much of that has to do with the presence of Nathan MacKinnon.

After finishing second in the Hart Trophy voting for NHL MVP in 2019-20, MacKinnon was chosen as a finalist again this season.

In 48 games, MacKinnon racked up 20 goals and 45 assists for 65 points. Colorado also got big-time forward production from Mikko Rantanen (66 points), Gabriel Landeskog (52 points) and Andre Burakovsky (44 points).

Additionally, defenseman Cale Makar was a Norris Trophy finalist after posting 44 points in 44 games and goalie Philipp Grubauer was a Vezina Trophy finalist thanks to his 30-9-1 record, 1.95 goals-against average and .922 save percentage.

Most of the aforementioned players are likely to return next season, although Landeskog and Grubauer will be unrestricted free agents.

The Golden Knights have only been in the NHL for four seasons, but they have achieved unprecedented success, reaching the playoffs all four times.

Vegas went to the Stanley Cup Final in its inaugural season and reached the Conference Finals this year, marking the second consecutive year it made it that far.

Among the key players set to return for the Golden Knights next season are forwards Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson, defensemen Alex Pietrangelo and Shea Theodore, and goalies Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner.

The Lightning also figure to return largely the same roster, led by Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, Victor Hedman and Conn Smythe Trophy-winning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.

If Tampa wins the Stanley Cup again next season, it will become the first team to three-peat since the New York Islanders won four in a row from 1980-83.