The Colorado Avalanche opened their 2021-22 NHL season with a 4-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday. If oddsmakers are correct, that will be just the first of many wins this year for the Stanley Cup favorites.

Stanley Cup odds Kraken
The Colorado Avalanche are the favorites to win the Stanley Cup this season, according to DraftKings Sportsbook. (Image: Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports)

DraftKings Sportsbook rates the Avalanche as the +475 favorites to win the Stanley Cup this season, putting Colorado ahead of the two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

Lightning look to strike thrice

The Lightning come in as a joint second choice alongside the Vegas Golden Knights. Both teams start at +700 to win the Stanley Cup this year, just ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs (+900).

Tampa Bay defeated the surprising Montreal Canadiens in five games in the 2021 Stanley Cup Finals. DraftKings doesn’t expect the Habs to factor into the title race again this season, though, listing Montreal as a +5000 pick to lift the cup.

After two years of modified playoff and season formats, the NHL returns to its traditional, 82-game regular-season schedule for the 2021-22 campaign. Teams are divided into four divisions and two conferences, with the top three teams in each division – along with two wild cards per conference – making the playoffs.

Last year, the NHL split the league into four regional divisions, which limited travel and completely eliminated the need for Canadian and American teams to cross the border and face each other. That means fans saw plenty of games between teams that rarely play each other in the regular season, along with some unusual playoff matchups. That included a Stanley Cup Finals between the Lightning and Canadiens, both of whom play in the Eastern Conference, and normally wouldn’t be able to meet that late in the postseason.

Stanley Cup odds show respect for Kraken

There is one significant change for this season. The NHL expanded to 32 teams with the addition of the Seattle Kraken, who will play in the Pacific Division of the Western Conference. Typically, expansion teams struggle for years before contending for a championship.

But NHL fans know that’s not always the case. The Golden Knights famously made the Stanley Cup Finals in their first season, coming up just short of winning the 2017-18 title when the Washington Capitals beat them in five games. Vegas has continued to make the playoffs in every season since then, reaching the league semifinals (or conference finals) in each of the past two years.

2021-22 Stanley Cup Odds (via DraftKings Sportsbook)
Colorado Avalanche: +475 Vegas Golden Knights: +700
Tampa Bay Lightning: +700 Toronto Maple Leafs: +900
Boston Bruins: +1300 New York Islanders: +1500
Florida Panthers: +1800 Edmonton Oilers: +2000
New York Rangers: +2200 Pittsburgh Penguins: +2500
Minnesota Wild: +2500 Carolina Hurricanes: +2500
Washington Capitals: +3000 Dallas Stars: +3500
Seattle Kraken: +4000 Philadelphia Flyers: +4000

Can the Kraken repeat that success? Seattle drafted a deep and reasonably talented team, just like Vegas did. The Kraken should boast a strong defensive unit and may benefit from a relatively weak Pacific Division.

All of that bodes well for Seattle reaching the playoffs, but it would take a special kind of magic for the Kraken to repeat – let alone exceed – the Golden Knights’ improbable run. DraftKings rates the Kraken as a middle-of-the-road +4000 pick in its Stanley Cup odds, perhaps wary of making the same mistake oddsmakers made before Vegas took the ice in its first season.