NHL

In this guide, we'll take a look at everything you should know before jumping into the world of betting on the National Hockey League. Whether you’re a new fan just jumping into the game or a seasoned hockey fan wanting to dip your feet in betting, this guide has you covered.

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What is NHL?

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The National Hockey League, more commonly known by its abbreviation ‘NHL‘ is a professional ice hockey league comprised of 31 teams across the USA and Canada.

When Does NHL Season Start?

The NHL usually starts its preseason in September, with teams playing roughly six to eight games as “warmups” and to help determine final roster spots. The regular season traditionally begins on the first Wednesday in October. The opening-night game usually features a rematch of the Stanley Cup Final or the conference final that featured the Cup-winning team.

How Many Games in NHL Season Are There?

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The NHL regular season traditionally consists of an 82-game season. Occasionally, that schedule is shortened due to extenuating circumstances or labor disputes, but abbreviated seasons are the outlier far more than the norm.

Each team plays 41 home games and 41 away games. They also play at least one home and away game against all other teams in the league. The rest of the schedule is rounded out with teams from the same division and conference.

How Long Is a NHL Hockey Game?

For those wondering, “how long do NHL games last?“, each game is three 20 minute periods not including rest intermissions between those periods.

When Do the NHL Playoffs Start?

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Following the conclusion of the regular season, 16 teams advance to the playoffs. Usually, the playoffs start in the second full week of April and run into early June.

Depending on how many games are played in each series, the postseason plays out over the course of roughly 60 days.

How Do the NHL Playoffs Work?

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Each of the four divisions sends its top three finishers to the playoffs. In each conference, there are also two “Wild Card” teams that can represent either division.

Teams are seeded 1-3 within their division based on their regular-season record. The No. 1 seed that finished higher in the standings plays the lower of the two Wild Card seeds, and vice versa.

Playoff rounds utilize a best-of-seven format, meaning the first team to win four games each round takes the series. First-round winners advance to play the division opponent who also won their series. After that, the two Eastern Conference and Western Conference teams play in the Conference Finals.

Finally, when both the Eastern and Western Conference champions are crowned, they compete against each other in the Stanley Cup Final. The series winner is then awarded the Stanley Cup, which is widely regarded as the best trophy in sports.

How to Watch NHL Playoffs

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Traditionally, the NHL playoffs air on NBC and NBCSN in the United States, though some games air on USA Network or the NHL Network. In Canada, games are broadcast on Sportsnet, Sportsnet 1, or Sportsnet 360.

There are usually two or three games every night during the week, and there may be as many as four or five per day over the weekend in the early rounds. The Conference Finals usually air every other day to avoid conflicting schedules.

During the Cup Final, games are exclusively on NBC and Sportsnet. However, following the 2020-21 season, the NHL may be moving its postseason coverage away from NBC and NBCSN.

Regardless of what network you’re subscribed to, you don’t need to wonder “What channel is NHL on?” if you have access to a device and online streaming connect speeds. See our full guide on how to watch NHL live (legally), here.

When Is the NHL Draft?

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The NHL Entry Draft is usually a three-day event running Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in late June, usually on the month’s penultimate weekend. Before the draft, a lottery is held for each of the first three picks.

Every team that misses the playoffs is eligible for the draft lottery, and odds are better for teams who finished lower in the standings. The draft runs over seven rounds, with selections made in inverse standings order each round.

To be draft-eligible, players must be at least 18 years old on or before Sept. 15 of the draft year and not older than 19 years old before Dec. 31 of the draft season. Non-North American players older than 20 years of age are also eligible.

When Is the NHL All Star Game?

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The NHL All-Star Game is held in non-Winter Olympic years, usually in late January or early February. The All-Star Game is typically played on a Sunday, with the Skills Competition held on Saturday.

Four All-Star teams are compiled from each of the league’s four divisions.

A fan vote determines the “captain” of each team; the winner is the player receiving the most votes from each division. The league then fills out the rest of the roster to ensure each team has at least one representative.

The game itself is a single-elimination tournament made up of three mini-games, where each division plays a three-on-three game with two 10-minute halves.

When Is the NHL Trade Deadline?

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Traditionally, the NHL Trade Deadline is at 3 pm ET on the last Monday of February. The Trade Deadline usually features playoff teams stockpiling players for a Cup run or teams who need to rebuild trading a player to acquire draft picks. It is regularly one of the most fun-to-follow days of the NHL season.

Betting

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There are three main types of NHL betting that commonly occur: futures betting, single-game betting, and in-play betting.

Futures betting generally involves betting on teams to win their division or win the Stanley Cup. However, it isn’t limited to betting on teams.

Futures bets can involve which player wins the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player, the Vezina Trophy as the best goaltender, the Calder Trophy for the NHL’s top rookie, and more.

Single-game betting involves picking the winner of a game, either on the moneyline or the puck line. A moneyline bet means picking a winner straight up with different odds for how good or bad each team is playing.

A puck-line bet requires bettors to pick the margin of victory, usually set at +/- 1.5 goals, similar to betting against the spread for football.

In-play betting also called “live betting” involves making bets on a game after it has already started. This manner of betting requires significant prep work, instant decision-making, and the ability to analyze game trends. You should never live bet on a game you haven’t been watching.

Whichever betting style you prefer or choose to utilize, the most important thing is to learn as much about the teams and the matchup as you can. The more homework you do, the more likely you are to win your bets.

NHL Betting Tips

One of the most important things to consider when making hockey bets is to check multiple injury reports on game day. The NHL is extremely vague about injury information, usually limiting terminology to “upper-body” and “lower-body” injuries.

They also are considered as “day-to-day” or “week-to-week” injuries if a player is not listed on injured reserve (IR) or long-term injured reserve (LTIR).

To complicate matters, some sites do not update their information regularly or may lack the information you need to know. The best places to go for injury information are to beat writers covering the team via Twitter, as well as local newspaper publications. A quick Google search will often point you in the right direction.

One of the more important NHL hockey betting tips to bear in mind is to check the projected starting goaltenders for each team. Some websites list starters as “unconfirmed,” “likely,” or “confirmed,” making themselves useful for quick referencing. However, you should check in with local beat writers as well.

Be sure to look at the schedule to see the recent trends from each team. Is either team on the second leg of a back-to-back? Are they on a long road trip or an extended homestand?

Were they coming off a big win or a heartbreaking loss? All are important considerations.

Finally, look at the shots and goals each team tallies and concedes. More shots generally mean more goals. However, if a team has a high shot total but low goal production, that could mean they don’t have enough players who are effective goal-scorers.

Teams that don’t shoot much but score goals tend to be more opportunistic, which causes problems if they don’t generate good chances. It’s always a safe bet for teams who don’t allow many goals or shots but remember, teams have to score to win. Balancing those metrics is key.

NHL Betting Predictions

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This is where our specialty comes in; many sites post daily game predictions and previews but none do so with the depth of knowledge nor reference to Las Vegas odds like we do. So while part of doing your research involves checking multiple sources, always study the Vegas odds here for each NHL game before you go ahead and make your first bet.

When you’re ready, a great place to start is our NHL betting predictions for the best NHL bets and know who to bet on (NHL) tonight. All of our previews include a free pick to help give you the betting advantage when you’re NHL betting online.

Also, check our Vegas Odds NHL Stanley Cup page for odds specific to the Stanley Cup.

While the obvious answer with trends is to look at recent wins and losses, digging deeper into why teams are winning and losing is crucial to betting success. Here are three trends you should consider before placing a hockey bet.

Faceoffs

One trend to consider is faceoff performance. Where are the majority of faceoffs coming from? How does each team’s faceoff percentage change in the offensive, defensive, and neutral zones?

What information can we get from a team’s power play and penalty kill numbers based on those faceoff numbers?

While a faceoff only takes a fraction of a second, its importance in the flow of the game cannot be understated. It’s hard enough to get possession of the puck during the game, so taking advantage of the dots is critical.

Shot Suppression

This one is a bit trickier than faceoffs. On one hand, blocking a shot is a great way to keep your opponent from scoring.

On the other hand, teams who are blocking a high number of shots relative to the shot totals they’re producing are spending too much time in their own end, making them more likely to concede a goal.

When looking at the number of shot attempts for and against a team, look at how many shots are being blocked in comparison to the shots on goal. This will give you a good indicator of shot attempt frequency, quality, and likeliness of producing a score.

Expected Goals (xG)

Expected goals is an advanced stat used to determine how many goals a team should be scoring based on a variety of factors and is useful in anticipating expected goals for (xGF) and against (xGA). Without spending too much time digging into it, the higher a team’s xGF, the more likely they are to score, and vice versa for xGA.

The tricky part here is that it deals in hypothetical instead of actual, so a team could have a high xGF stat with a low goals-for total.

The Stanley Cup

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The Stanley Cup has been awarded since 1893, 24 years before the NHL was founded. Widely regarded as the “Greatest Trophy in Sports,” the Cup features the names of the players and coaches who previously won the Cup forever engraved on the award.

It is named after Lord Stanley of Preston, the Governor-General of Canada, who donated the Cup for annual presentation to Canada’s top-ranking amateur ice hockey club.

Over time, the Cup has grown to accommodate more names being added each season. Now standing over 35 inches (89 cm) and weighing 34.5 pounds (15.5 kg), more than 3,000 names have been etched onto the Cup.

The Montreal Canadiens have won more Cups than any other franchise, taking home the trophy 24 times. The next closest team is the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have won the Stanley Cup 13 times, most recently in 1967.

See our full Stanley Cup betting guide for further betting tips.

How to Read Vegas Odds (NHL)

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When looking at Vegas odds, you want to identify which team is the favorite. The team that is expected to win will have a “-“ symbol next to its odds, while the underdog will have a “+” symbol.

For example, if the odds read “Ottawa Senators (+190) at Winnipeg Jets (-222),” Winnipeg is heavily favored (the higher the number, the stronger a favorite or larger an underdog). If Ottawa wins, a $100 bet wins $190. If Winnipeg wins, a $222 bet wins $100.

Occasionally, two closely matched teams will both have a “-“ symbol in front of their odds. In that case, the team with a higher number is the favorite.

Las Vegas NHL team

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Las Vegas’ NHL team is the Vegas Golden Knights. They began competing as an expansion team in the 2017-18 season.

In their inaugural season, they advanced to the Stanley Cup Final but lost to the Washington Capitals. Vegas has made the playoffs each year of the franchise’s existence.

FAQ

When does the NHL season start?

Regular-season play usually begins the first Wednesday in October.

When does NHL 21 come out?

EA’s NHL 21 video game is already out on PlayStation and Xbox but is not yet available on PC. The title is usually released in mid-September annually.

When does NHL 22 come out?

As of writing, EA’s NHL 22 video game has no official release date, but we can safely assume around September as per previous annual releases.

How long are NHL games?

NHL games are made up of three 20-minute periods and, if needed, followed by five minutes of three-on-three overtime and a shootout after that.

How many teams make the NHL playoffs?

16 teams (eight from each conference) advance to the playoffs; the top three finishers in each division advance to postseason play, along with two “Wild Card” teams for each conference that can be from any division.

How many Canadian teams are in the NHL?

The NHL has seven Canadian teams: the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, and Vancouver Canucks.

How much do NHL referees make?

NHL referees make between $165,000 and $360,000 per season, while linesmen make between $110,000 and $235,000 per season.

How much do NHL players make?

Players on an entry-level contract (ELC) can make up to $925,000 for the first three years of their contract, though this amount is scaled back while playing in the AHL or at juniors. After their ELC, players can make up to $15.9 million per season, though that amount is exceptionally rare, as Toronto’s Auston Matthews is the only player making that much in 2021.

When are the NHL playoffs?

The NHL playoffs usually begin in April following the regular season and run until early June (roughly 60 days).

How many players are in the NHL?

Most teams carry an active roster of 23 players (meaning 31 teams x 23 players = 713 players), though, with injuries, illnesses, and roster moves between the NHL and AHL, that number varies a little throughout the year.

How long is NHL intermission?

NHL intermissions run 17 minutes, allowing teams to rest and regroup and giving rink staff a chance to resurface the ice.

How thick is NHL ice?

NHL ice is approximately three-quarters of an inch thick.

How many teams are in the NHL?

31.

When does NHL start?

NHL preseason starts in September, with teams playing roughly six to eight games to determine final roster spots.