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Odds to Win the NHL Atlantic Division: Can Anyone Catch the Maple Leafs?

John Tavares #91 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates his first period goal on the Ottawa Senators with his teammate Nazem Kadri #43 during Kraft Hockeyville Canada at the Lucan Community Memorial Centre on September 18, 2018 in Lucan, Ontario, Canada.

The Atlantic Division is the most diverse division in the NHL, as it contains teams that have a very realistic shot of hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup in June and clubs that will likely only be contending for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.

For the first time in recent memory, the Toronto Maple Leafs are the +160 favorites to win the Atlantic at Bovada, followed by the Tampa Bay Lightning (+165), Boston Bruins (+260), Florida Panthers (+1200), Buffalo Sabres (+3500), Montreal Canadiens (+4000), Detroit Red Wings (+5000) and Ottawa Senators (+6600).

The time is now for the Maple Leafs

Along with being division favorites, the Maple Leafs also have the best chance to win the Stanley Cup. The Leafs set franchise records for wins and points last season and were a period away from advancing to the second round of the playoffs before suffering yet another first-round exit to the Bruins. But Toronto made the biggest splash of the summer by signing hometown boy John Tavares, giving them a three-headed monster down the middle with Auston Matthews and Nazem Kadri.

Toronto ranked fourth in the league in goals for while boasting the second-best power play in 2017-18, so adding Tavares to the mix is downright terrifying for the rest of the NHL. The defense remains a work-in-progress and is clearly the team’s weakest link, and goaltender Frederik Andersen has shown inconsistency at times but remains a very good starter. The Leafs won’t be going anywhere for a long, long time, and an Atlantic Division banner is a very realistic possibility for Mike Babcock’s crew.

Lightning, Bruins offering value

The Lightning have made three trips to the Eastern Conference final in the last four years, yet they have nothing to show for it. On paper, Tampa Bay possesses what’s arguably the best team in the NHL, as Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, J.T. Miller, Ondrej Palat, Brayden Point and Tyler Johnson make up an extremely talented top-six forward group. Starting goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy looked like the Vezina Trophy favorite for the first half of the 2017-18 campaign before falling off as the playoffs approached but will be fresh for the season opener.

The Bruins weren’t expected to be this good this quickly, but Boston’s young group arrived ahead of schedule last year and the Bruins finished with 50 wins and 112 points as a result. The B’s, who ranked sixth in goals for and fourth in goals against, also had the fourth-best power play and third-best penalty kill in the NHL. Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak comprise the top line in the league, while the rest of the roster is loaded with both depth and potential.

Besides the Maple Leafs, Bruins and Lightning, only the Panthers look like a potential playoff team in my eyes. The Sabres, Canadiens, Red Wings and especially the Senators all boast their fair share of problems and shouldn’t be even considered as a potential futures bet.

2018-19 NHL Atlantic Division Odds
Toronto Maple Leafs+160
Tampa Bay Lightning+165
Boston Bruins+260
Florida Panthers+1200
Buffalo Sabres+3500
Montreal Canadiens+4000
Detroit Red Wings+5000
Ottawa Senators+6600

Odds as of October 3 at Bovada