The NHL regular season begins on Tuesday night. I chatted with a pro sports bettor (@SoMoneySports) to break down his NHL futures odds process and help you digest the betting market. The entire conversation is below, including his favorite bet in preseason Stanley Cup odds.
Handicapping NHL Betting Market
EH: How do you approach NHL futures odds differently from other sports?
SM: I find that in order to be successful and ahead of the market, you need to have a more clear-based approach. I think that everything in the market is trending away from team power rankings. It’s all about the players.
What I’ve done the last few years is that I have a really strong player-based model, and I’m constantly on top of all the lineup information, like who’s in and out of the lineup. I’ve got a nice structure in place where I can react to those lineup changes and digest that information quickly.
You need to be able to get to a point where you’re on top of the line of information and also goaltenders as well. It’s the most important position, and there are significant differences on some teams between starters and backups. So you really need to focus on evaluating goaltenders and what the difference is between these goaltenders.
I think that if you can focus on the lineups and focus on the goaltenders, that’s going to give you a head start on the market.
EH: What metrics do you hone in on specifically?
SM: We have a few elements that we look at. For skaters, it’s a combination of like expected goals (xG) and how many chances they’re generating on the rush. For defensemen, it’s how they’re doing on the ice for expected goals against.
Goaltenders are a little bit different because you want to focus on comparing them with their peers across the week. Not so much the goals against average, but it’s the expected save percentage (xSv%). That’s based on comparable shots that other goaltenders are facing and how likely is this goaltender to stop them. If you can capture that in your data and in your model, then you’re going to come on ahead.
- Editor’s Note: Expected Goals is also an important metric in handicapping soccer.
EH: When you say “we,” who are you referring to?
SM: It’s myself and my betting partners. I have someone who is constantly just reading. He is looking at all the beat writers and everything that comes up with a team while being on top of lineup situations. I’ve got someone else who is just solely — whatever’s out there and how much we can get down, limits, everything. It’s our routine.
Perception of NHL Futures Odds
EH: Moving onto the Stanley Cup futures market, is there still value in the Colorado Avalanche (+500) despite their short price?
SM: I do think there’s some value, but it’s not enough for me to have money locked up like that throughout the whole season. If I bet Colorado at that price now, I’m not expected to be paid on this until next June. From that sense, it doesn’t make sense for me to have that money locked in because also throughout the season, every team is going to go through stretches where they’re going to struggle.
It’s a long grind. Right? There’s probably going to be an opportunity, if I feel that Colorado is undervalued or head and shoulders above everybody else, to buy a number or a similar number — as opposed to having that money locked up right now.
So if I’m going to be betting preseason futures, it’s going to have to be at a long shot — like a significant long shot for my money to be tied up for that long.
Best NHL Futures Odds In Your State
EH: How about season point totals? What’s your philosophy on betting these or win totals in general, considering they’re typically priced at -110 odds?
SM: I’d love to bet regular season points and win totals. There are a lot of advantages there, especially if you can get to them early. But unfortunately, it doesn’t make sense for the money to be tied up for that long — similar to the Avs.
Value Bet To Win The Stanley Cup
EH: Which NHL futures odds have you already wagered on?
SM: One team that stands out for me is the Winnipeg Jets. I felt that they were really close last year, and they just didn’t have the defensive kind of stability to be able to take that next step. From what I see, from what they’ve done in the offseason, they’ve really honed in on that part. I feel that they’ve addressed it.
They play in a division that does have Colorado. So it’s tough, but Winnipeg as a team, I think that you can get them at still. That presents a lot of value. You can argue that they may even have the league’s best goaltender (in Connor Hellebuyck). He’s definitely in the top two.
Best Winnipeg Jets Odds In Your State
EH: From a metric standpoint, why are you so high on the Jets — juxtaposed to the market?
SM: In terms of preventing goals, they struggled a little bit last year, and they had their goaltender bailing them out a lot. We saw it near the end of the season where Hellebuyck started getting worn down. So I don’t see that same thing continuing to harvest this season. You have, hopefully, a full season with your top-end guys.
They acquired (center) Pierre-Luc Dubois later on in the season. So you’re going to get a full year from him. I liked their top six. If you look based on last season’s numbers, their expected goals should be higher. I do expect them to generate more offense, and I do expect them to be better defensively just because of what they’ve addressed and also because their defense is stronger. Hellebuyck shouldn’t get as worn down.