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2021 NHL Central Division Odds, Predictions, and Point Totals

Kevin Allen

by Kevin Allen in NHL Hockey

Jan 12, 2021 · 9:47 AM PST

Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) skates during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
  • The reigning Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning are the favorites to win the  Central Division
  • The temporarily-revamped Central has teams from three different 2019-20 Divisions (Atlantic, Metropolitan and Central) 
  • Our season preview covers complete season odds and win totals for all eight Central teams

The Tampa Bay Lightning are an easy pick to win the temporarily revamped Central Division. The Lightning have averaged just under 105 points per season for the past seven seasons.  Plus, their primary division rival, the Boston Bruins, has been shifted to the East Division.

When the division shuffling was completed, the Lightning were 10 points or more better last season than every other team in their division this season.

The Lightning are skilled enough, tight enough defensively, and boast goaltending necessary to believe they have a chance to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. But history is against them as the Detroit Red Wings (1997 and 1998) and Pittsburgh Penguins (2016 and 2017) are the only teams to repeat in the last quarter-century.

2021 NHL Central Division Odds

Team Odds To Win Division Odds To Win Stanley Cup Total Points
Tampa Bay Lightning +125 +750 74.5
Carolina Hurricanes +350 +1800 71.5
Dallas Stars +550 +2500 65.5
Nashville Predators +800 +3000 63.5
Columbus Blue Jackets +900 +4000 63.5
Florida Panthers +1000 +4500 59.5
Chicago Blackhawks +2500 +7000 49.5
Detroit Red Wings/td> +5000 +30000 43.5

Odds taken Jan. 12 at DraftKings

Tampa Bay Lightning

  • 2019-20 Season Record:  43-21-6
  •  Goals For Per Game: 3.47 (1st)
  • Goals Against Per Game: 2.77 (8th)
  • Power Play Percentage: 23.1% (5th)
  • Penalty Killing Percentage: 81.4%  (14th)
  • Starting Goaltender: Andrei Vasilevskiy (35-14-3, 2.56 GAA, .917 SV%)

The Lightning have salary cap issues, but their more difficult decisions were delayed when Nikita Kucherov suffered a hip injury that will put him on the long-term injury list for most, if not all, of this regular season. The loss of high skilled Kucherov is noteworthy, but this buys Tampa Bay time. They were not forced to trade Tyler Johnson or Alex Killorn or someone else.

Key Offseason Moves

Key Additions Key Losses
Marian Gaborik Braydon Coburn
Zach Bogosian
Kevin Shattenkirk

The strength of the Tampa Bay team is the depth of their talent. The Lightning have the NHL’s No. 1 goalie and one of the top three defensemen in Victor Hedman.

Prediction: 81 Points (1st)

Carolina Hurricanes

  • 2019-20 Season Record: 38-25-5
  •  Goals For Per Game: 3.19 (11th)
  • Goals Against Per Game: 2.84 (11th)
  • Power Play Percentage: 22.3% (8th)
  • Penalty Killing Percentage: 84% (4th)
  • Starting Goaltender: Petr Mrazek (21-16-2,  2.69 GAA, .905 SV%)

The Hurricanes didn’t feel like they needed to do much this off-season because they have young stars that are improving every day. Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, and Martin Necas are all players who could make a significant leap in their production levels.

Led by Jacobb Slavin, the Hurricanes also have one of the NHL’s most skilled defensive groups.

Key Offseason Moves

Key Additions Key Losses
Jesper Fast Trevor Van Riemsdyk
Sami Vantanen

The only question about the Hurricanes is whether Mrazek is the right choice in net. The Hurricanes believe in him. They had a chance to acquire another goalie but decided Mrazek could do the job.

Prediction: 74 Points (2nd)

Dallas Stars

  • 2019-20 Season Record: 37-24-8
  •  Goals For Per Game: 2.58 (26th)
  • Goals Against Per Game: 2.52 (2nd)
  • Power Play Percentage: 21.1% (13th)
  • Penalty Killing Percentage: 79.7% (17th)
  • Starting Goaltender: Anton Khudobin (16-8-4, 2.22 GAA, .930 SV%)

The Stars are hoping it wasn’t a bad omen when their season was delayed by COVID-19 issues. Even before that hit, the Stars were dealing with longer-term injuries for top center Tyler Seguin and No. 1 goalie Ben Bishop.

Anton Khudobin will step in for Bishop, just like he did during the playoffs. But he’s never been a No. 1 goalie during his career.

Key Offseason Moves

Key Additions Key Losses
Anton Khudobin Mattias Janmark
Mark Pysyk Corey Perry
Roman Polak

The Stars were among the NHL’s top defensive teams last season, and they will have to repeat that success to even make the playoffs this season. It certainly looks like they will struggle to score many goals.

Prediction: 70 Points (3rd)

Nashville Predators

  • 2019-20 Season Record: 35-26-8
  •  Goals For Per Game: 3.07 (16th)
  • Goals Against Per Game: 3.10 (20th)
  • Power Play Percentage: 17.3% (25th)
  • Penalty Killing Percentage: 76.1% (29th)
  • Starting Goaltender: Juuse Saros (17-12-4, 2.70 GAA, .914 SV%)

The Predators’ season will come down to whether the team’s top two centers Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene have bounce-back seasons. Duchene netted 13 goals and Johansen had 14. That’s not good enough. To be more competitive, the Predators need 40+ goals from those two players.

Key Offseason Moves

Key Additions Key Losses
Erik Haula Craig Smith
Luke Kunin Dan Hamhuis
Nick Cousins Kyle Turris
Mark Borowiecki Korbinian Holzer

The Predators, led by Roman Josi, still have one of the NHL’s best defensive groups. GM David Poile strengthened it with offseason acquisitions. Pekka Rinne is not the goaltender he once was, but Saros seems ready to be the No. 1.

Prediction: 60 Points (5th)

Columbus Blue Jackets

  • 2019-20 Season Record: 33-22-15
  •  Goals For Per Game: 2.57 (28th)
  • Goals Against Per Game: 2.61 (3rd)
  • Power Play Percentage: 16.4 (27th)
  • Penalty Killing Percentage: 81.7% (12th)
  • Starting Goaltender: Elvis Merzlikins (13-9-8, 2.35 SV%, .923 GAA)

The Blue Jackets are starting the season under a cloud of concern. Their No. 1 offensive player Pierre-Luc Dubois asked the team to trade him. It doesn’t have to happen immediately because Dubois did sign a two-year bridge contract. But this isn’t good for dressing room morale. It leaves players wondering about when a deal might come and whether Dubois has his mind on team success.

Key Offseason Moves

Key Additions Key Losses
Max Domi Josh Anderson
Mikko Koivu Alexander Wennberg
Michael Del Zotto Drew Shore
Mikhail Grigorenko

Scoring was an issue for the Blue Jackets last season, and they didn’t do much to improve their offense.

Prediction: 68 Points (4th)

Florida Panthers

  • 2019-20 Season Record: 35-26-8
  •  Goals For Per Game: 3.30 (6th)
  • Goals Against Per Game: 3.25 (28th)
  • Power Play Percentage: 21.3% (10th)
  • Penalty Killing Percentage: 78.5% (20th)
  • Starting Goaltender: Sergei Bobrovsky (23-19-6, 3.23 GAA, .900 SV%)

The firing of Dale Tallon as general manager and the hiring of former Columbus assistant GM Bill Zito was probably the most significant off-season move. Zito has the reputation of being a rising young star in the management field.

Key Offseason Moves

Key Additions Key Losses
Patric Hornqvist Mike Hoffman
Alexander Wennberg Evgeni Dadonov
Markus Nutivaara Mark Pysyk
Radko Gudas Brian Boyle
MacKenzie Weegar Mike Matheson

The team’s season will clearly hinge on whether Bobrovsky rediscovers his goaltending mojo. If “Bob” plays like he did when he won Vezina trophies in 2013 and 2017, the team might compete for a playoff spot. If he performs poorly like he did last season, they won’t. He needs to step up because he has seven seasons remaining on his contract.

Prediction: 57 Points (6th)

Chicago Blackhawks

  • 2019-20 Season Record: 32-30-8
  • Goals For Per Game: 2.97 (18th)
  • Goals Against Per Game: 3.06 (16th)
  • Power Play Percentage: 15.2% (28th)
  • Penalty Killing Percentage: 82.1% (9th)
  • Starting Goaltender: Collin Delia (6-4-3, 3.61 GAA, .908 SV%)

The Blackhawks’ hopes for a strong season were undermined before training camp when No. 1 center Jonathan Toews announced that he is suffering from an undisclosed illness that leaves him without much energy. He is out indefinitely. To make matters worse, No. 2 center Kirby Dach is out for the regular season after having surgery to repair a broken wrist suffered at the World Junior Championships.

Key Offseason Moves

Key Additions Key Losses
Carl Soderberg Brandon Saad
Mattias Janmark Corey Crawford
Slater Koekkoek

In this offseason, the free agent and trade markets had multiple goalies available. The Blackhawks chose to go with unproven goalies this season. That decision could haunt them.

Prediction: 47 Points (8th)

 Detroit Red Wings

  • 2019-20 Season Record: 17-49-5
  •  Goals For Per Game: 2.00 (31st)
  • Goals Against Per Game: 3.73 (31st)
  • Power Play Percentage: 14.9% (29th)
  • Penalty Killing Percentage: 74.2% (31st)
  • Starting Goaltender: Thomas Greiss (16-9-4, 2.74 GAA, .913 SV%)

GM Steve Yzerman took the second step in his rebuilding plan this offseason by acquiring multiple veterans on short-term contracts to make the team more competitive while his young team comes of age. The addition of goalie Thomas Greiss, plus defenseman Marc Staal, Christian Djoos, Troy Stecher, and Jon Merrill will tighten up the team’s goals-against problem.

Key Offseason Moves

Key Additions Key Losses
Marc Staal Jimmy Howard
Troy Stecher Justin Abdelkader
Jon Merrill Jonathan Ericsson
Bobby Ryan Trevor Daley
Vladislav Namestikov Madison Bowey

Yzerman seems to like coach Jeff Blashill, but Blashill is still the favorite to be the first coach fired this season. The Red Wings are still at least a year away from turning the corner in their rebuild.

The Red Wings will scrape away a few wins in this division, but not enough to make a push for the playoffs with their extremely young core.

Prediction: 54 Points (7th)

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