It’s been a brilliant season so far in the National Hockey League (NHL). Patient hockey fans have had lots to look forward to with regards to this current 2022–23 season, and so far, they haven’t been disappointed.
With around 70 games played at the time of writing, there are only a few weeks left to go in the regular season before the playoffs get underway. It’s then that the NHL takes on a whole new level of competitiveness and ferocity.
In this guide, we’ll look at how the season has played out so far and who the top teams and players to watch have been. We’ll also look ahead to the playoffs to see who could claim the Stanley Cup in 2023.
We’ll also have a look at betting on the NHL, specifically in Ontario, to give you some useful advice.
First, let’s take a look at how the NHL works.
About the NHL
The NHL is one of the oldest and most respected professional sports organizations in the world.
The league is made up of 32 teams split into four divisions. There are 25 teams based in the United States and seven in Canada. Each team plays 82 games during the regular season and battles to finish in the top three in their division. Those who do, qualify for the playoffs, along with two wild card teams.
During the playoffs, teams compete in a knockout format, with each tier including a best of seven games, all in a bid to claim the Stanley Cup.
Advice on betting on the NHL in Ontario
In Ontario, sports betting is perfectly legal and is regulated by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG).
This means players can make bets with a variety of sportsbooks. There are 29 online sportsbooks registered in Ontario. Many of these allow you to make a range of bets on the NHL, such as moneyline bets, puck line bets and total bets.
One of the simplest stakes to place when it comes to NHL sports betting is the moneyline bet. All you need to do is choose the team you think will win the game.
A puck line bet is a little different in that you must choose a point spread, which involves choosing a team to win by a certain number of goals, or alternatively choosing whether the underdog will either win or lose by less than a set amount.
Totals bets are also quite simple in that they involve betting on the total number of goals scored in the game.
Another hugely popular NHL bet is a futures bet. This simply involves picking a team to win the Stanley Cup, for example, or whether they’ll make the playoffs. You can also try prop bets which involve betting on a specific player or team to perform a certain action in the match, such as which player will score the first goal of the game.
As with any type of bet, it’s vitally important to spend some time doing research first. Take a look at recent form, both home and away, and any injuries a team may have. Factors such as this can massively sway the outcome of a match.
Another useful statistic to consider is the head-to-head history. Using this will indicate which teams tend to do well against the other. There are always “bogey teams” that some franchises tend to slip up against. Knowing this could allow you to take advantage of favorable odds.
The top teams to watch in 2023
The NHL season is nearly drawing to a close, which means the playoffs are just around the corner.
Excitement is high; it has arguably been one of the most interesting and exciting seasons yet. Below, we’ll review the current NHL standings and check out some of the biggest contenders for this year’s Stanley Cup.
The number one team in the NHL right now is the Boston Bruins. Many branded this season the Bruins’ last opportunity to win the Stanley Cup with their current roster, and they’re taking the chance with both hands.
Last year, they finished 10th and all the signs pointed to more mediocrity this year. However, they’ve blown everyone away with their slick performances on the ice.
One player who’s been instrumental to the Bruins’ success is right winger David Pastrnak. So far, he’s recorded a remarkable 46 goals, 43 assists, 89 points and 310 shots.
Other key players, such as Brad Marchand (56 points, 155 shots), David Krejci (52 points, 96 shots) and Patrice Bergeron (49 points, 219 shots) have also contributed significantly to the Bruin’s success.
With this formidable attack, it’s unsurprising how good the Bruins’ record is at 50–11–5. Heading into the playoffs, they must be optimistic about their chances, making them one of the top teams to watch in 2023.
Not far behind the Boston Bruins with a record of 44–14–8 are the Carolina Hurricanes. They currently sit at the top of the Metropolitan division but remain a few points behind the league leaders.
Last year, the Hurricanes won the division too, but suffered defeat at the hands of the New York Rangers in just the second round of the playoffs. This year has shown that the results of the last season have not quelled the Hurricanes’ wind and they’ll be keen to blow their opponents away this time around.
With Martin Necas (61 points, 200 shots) and Sebastian Aho (55 points, 182 shots) in fine form, and improving with each game, they’ll be confident that they can get to the final and claim the Stanley Cup. They’re definitely another team to keep an eye on.
Toronto Maple Leafs
As of March 15, Toronto has an impressive record of 40–18–8 and currently holds the second spot in the Atlantic division, trailing only the Boston Bruins. Last season, the Maple Leafs finished fourth overall, but with their current level of intensity, they have the potential to surpass that this season.
Right winger Mitch Marner has been in top form, coming off a 23-game point streak and recently setting a new franchise record with a 19-game home point streak. He’s bagged 24 goals, 61 assists, 85 points and 162 shots this season. Meanwhile, star centre Auston Matthews has also performed exceptionally well, with 31 goals, 36 assists, 67 points and 249 shots.
Question marks remain regarding the Maple Leafs though. They suffered a disappointing 5–3 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in the middle of February, but they did bounce back with an impressive win over the Buffalo Sabres to avoid a losing streak for the first time since mid-January.
Whether they have what it takes to claim the Stanley Cup remains to be seen, but they’re certainly a team to keep an eye on.
Who are the top NHL players to watch in 2023?
The NHL is packed with brilliantly talented players and at the moment some of them are in tremendous form. Let’s take a look at who to keep an eye on as we move into the playoffs:
Connor McDavid had a breathtaking season in 2021–22. He scored 105 points in just 56 games, which was 21 points better than his own star teammate, Leon Draisaitl, and a huge 36 points ahead of the next-best non-Oilers player. He tied for fifth in the modern era for the best scoring record.
Many people regard McDavid as the best hockey player currently playing. As for the 2022–23 season, he’s shown no signs of slowing.
So far, the Canadian has played 68 games and bagged 129 points by scoring 56 goals and providing 73 assists. Again, his teammate Draisaitl is second behind him, but McDavid is a good 29 points ahead.
With these two in such fine form this year, the Edmonton Oilers have a decent chance of claiming the Stanley Cup.
Another Oilers player, Draisaitl is currently second in the scoring league table with 100 points in 66 games. He’s bagged 44 goals and provided 56 assists too, giving him the edge over Tampa Bay Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov.
It looks like the German has finally found his winning formula. In 2021, he struggled a bit defensively—it doesn’t seem to be his strongest skillset. His main strength lies in being a play driver and he is one of the best in the league at it, as this year has proven again.
If the Oilers can keep Draisaitl and McDavid fit, they could have a real chance at victory.
Arguably the player closest to McDavid is Kucherov. He proved it in the playoffs last year, scoring 32 points in only 27 playoff matches. He’s continued that incredible form into this season.
So far, in 68 games, he’s put up 96 points, scoring 27 goals and providing an impressive 69 assists, second only behind McDavid.
If Kucherov and McDavid meet in the postseason, it promises to be a series to watch for a Stanley Cup Final.