Vegas Golden Knights Solid NHL Bet To Win Western Conference
They remain the NHL team that gets the most betting action of any team. Their location, of course, has a lot to do with that. But it probably has to do with the fact that the Vegas Golden Knights have given their NHL betting advocates a very good winning return in their first two seasons as a franchise.
The Golden Knights were nothing short of a miracle in their inaugural season, winning the Western Conference and taking the Washington Capitals to a sixth game of the Stanley Cup Finals. They were a playoff team again last season, seemingly en route to an easy win in Game 7 of the first round against San Jose before a minor miracle happened against them and the Sharks won in overtime.
The Golden Knights' abrupt end did nothing to dim bookmakers' enthusiasm for their chances in this upcoming season. Vegas is the favorite to win not only the Pacific Division but the Western Conference. At 888sport, the Golden Knights are +375 to win the West, with the Dallas Stars next at +600. They are +140 to win the Pacific and are a whopping -625 to make the playoffs. They are -118 on the over of 99.5 points and -106 on the under.
There are a lot of reasons to like the Golden Knights' chances to win the West for the second time in three years.
Depth, Speed are Hallmarks
Ask a lot of hockey people who they think is the fastest team in the NHL, and the Golden Knights' name comes up frequently. Coach Gerard Gallant somehow was able to get his team of mostly castoffs to play firewagon, entertaining hockey in which opponents just couldn't keep up.
Mark Stone might be my favourite player in the NHL. I just love everything about his game. He's not the best at anything but he's great at everything!— Tony Ferrari (@theTonyFerrari) September 20, 2019
He swoops in here and scores a beauty on a breakaway. Big props to Jonathan Marchessault for the great play. #VegasBorn#VGKpic.twitter.com/tCqaSpmWeJ
That shouldn't change, as Vegas has two really excellent top lines, with a top unit of William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, and Mark Stone. Even their third and fourth lines have a lot of speed and skill, with Cody Eakin and Reilly Smith making up two-thirds of a strong third unit.
Karlsson shocked everybody by scoring 43 goals his first year in Vegas, with 78 points. His production fell to 23 goals and 56 points last year. That first year will probably always be something of an outlier in his career, but getting back to the 60-70 point range is one thing that probably needs to happen if Vegas is to win the conference again.
The same thing with Marchessault, whose production slipped from 75 to 59 points.
By playing a full year on a line with right winger Stone, those two should see their numbers inflate again.
Defensive Mobility Biggest Question Mark
Probably what the Golden Knights still lack the most is a dominant, No. 1 defenseman who can also play some at the offensive end. They were in the mix to acquire Erik Karlsson when he was available, but it never worked out. The Golden Knights could use a better power-play (PP) quarterback from the blue line, as they finished 25th in the league last season on the PP at 16.8%. That was a steep drop from 21.4% of the year before.
Fleury Older But Capable
Marc-Andre Fleury no doubt had a long summer. He let in a couple of bad goals that helped cost the series with the Sharks, especially in a Game 6 at home in which Vegas could have clinched. His season overall was something of a dip from the amazing first year in Vegas, with his saves percentage dropping from .927 to .913. Some will question his age (35 in November) and wonder if that's the reason, but Fleury keeps himself in good shape and, maybe more important, still has a boyish enthusiasm for the game and life in general. He'll have a strong bounce-back season, I think.
Overall, I'm on board with betting the Golden Knights to win the West. Not sure there should be as much space between them and the second-best team, at the current odds, but they are a solid pick overall.