NHL Betting Guide – Odds, Picks & Tips

When the puck drops on NHL games, entertainment follows. Hockey is full of action, and the sport’s moniker as the fastest game on ice is more than appropriate. While watching is tons of fun, there are ways to get even closer to the action.

Sports betting has been legalized in several states across the U.S., and Virginia has added its name to the growing list. You can now bet on the NHL legally and safely here in VA.

Let’s cover everything you need to know from the basics of hockey betting to understanding NHL odds a little deeper to live hockey betting and all points in between.

Latest NHL betting odds

After the initial release, odds and lines for NHL games can move quickly. Staying on top of the latest numbers isn’t too painful thanks to our live odds feed, so check back often for the current state of the market.

Is NHL betting legal in Virginia?

It took some time for sports betting to get moving here in VA, but the state legislature finally gave its approval in April 2020. A number of the biggest sportsbooks in the industry started up and welcomed users with open arms in early 2021.

Bet on the NHL in Virginia

The Virginia sports betting market is unique in that betting is available exclusively via online sportsbooks and sportsbook apps. You don’t need to be a VA resident to sign up and play with one of the operators, but you do need to be located within state lines to place bets.

Users must also be 21 years of age or older when signing up. Sportsbooks will verify your information during sign up. The registration process is quick and simple. You’ll have to provide information such as your address and the last four digits of your Social Security number.

To verify your location for placing bets, sites and apps use what is known as geolocation tracking. If you are betting on a sportsbook app, your phone’s location services must be turned on in tandem with the app. If you are betting on your computer, you may have to install a browser extension to fully geolocate.

For NHL betting, you’ll have access to all of the different markets and bet types you could ask for. Odds and lines can be found on the NHL tab or as part of the main sportsbook lobby. Also, remember that our live odds feed gives you up to the minute NHL odds from several different sportsbooks.

You can bet on individual NHL games in several different ways, scan for prop and live betting opportunities or bet on the NHL season as a whole with futures bets.

How to bet on NHL games online in VA

Signing up to bet on the NHL online will take just a couple of minutes of your time. To begin the process, click through on our sportsbook links on this page. This will make you eligible for any free bets or bonuses just for creating an account.

After you’ve entered and confirmed a few personal details, your account will be live right away. From there, you can then download the sportsbook app directly from the sportsbook’s website. Once you log in on the app, you’ll have access to the full sportsbook via the app.

There are several different deposit options to choose from, including PayPal or credit cards. When it’s time to cash out any winnings, you can typically choose the same option you used to deposit with.

As far as the best sportsbooks for NHL betting go, you’ll find that each has unique characteristics and strong points. For example, DraftKings is known for having a slick interface and a great live betting platform. FanDuel also crushes it on usability, but the layout is much simpler.

Which NHL team is most popular in Virginia?

While no NHL teams make their home here in VA, that doesn’t mean that there’s not quite a built-in fanbase for the fastest game on ice. Allegiances may be spread out a bit more than elsewhere, but some teams move the needle more than others in terms of interest. Here’s a look at a pair of teams that generate quite the buzz in VA.

Washington Capitals

The closest thing we have to a home team, especially for those in the DC metro area, is the Capitals. After coming up short in the quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup for what seems like forever, the team finally had a massive breakthrough not too long ago.

  • Established: 1974
  • Home games: Capital One Arena
  • Address: 601 F Street NW, Washington D.C. 20004
  • Capacity: 20,656
  • Stanley Cups: 1 – 2017-18
  • Conference championships: 2 – last in 2017-18
  • Presidents’ Trophies: 3 – last in 2016-17
  • Division titles: 13 – last in 2019-20
  • Retired numbers: 4 – last for Mike Gartner in 2008

Carolina Hurricanes

A close second for NHL fans in Virginia is likely the Raleigh-based Hurricanes, who won fans over with notable on-ice success in the early 2000s and with the playful “Bunch of Jerks” post-game celebrations of recent years.

  • Established: 1971 (Nee England; 1997 Carolina)
  • Home games: PNC Arena
  • Address: 1400 Edwards Mill Road, Raleigh, NC
  • Capacity: 18,680
  • Stanley Cups: 1 – 2006
  • Conference championships: 2 – 2002, 2006
  • Presidents’ Trophies: None
  • Division titles: 4 – last in 2021

No matter which NHL team you choose to bet on here in VA, you’ll have plenty of different choices to consider. You can also focus on the fortunes of the team for the season as a whole in the futures market, or drill down into the performance of individual players with prop bets.

  • Bet on Capitals to win Stanley Cup, conference, or division
  • How many total goals and assists will Andrei Svechnikov have in the game – Over/Under 1.5?

How do NHL power rankings work?

There are several powerful tools out there that can prove to be quite useful for sports betting handicapping. A well-defined set of power rankings is one of the most popular items on that list.

Power rankings attempt to quantify the overall strength of a team into a single number. Teams are then ranked from top to bottom in order by what the rankings have to say. For NHL purposes, you’ll see rankings for all 32 teams, ranging from the best to the worst according to the rankings.

When two teams are set to face off, you simply compare the rankings and factors in the home-ice advantage. This gives you a reasonable interpretation of how the two teams stack up. As a general rule, the team with the better ranking is usually the favorite in the game.

Power rankings help you to determine exactly how much of a difference there is between the two teams. Some handicappers compile their rankings and adjust them as the season plays out, and there are also many solid systems out there on the internet which are completely free to use.

NHL betting for beginners

When starting to bet on any sport, it’s always good to start with the basics. For the NHL, you’ll find lines for all of the upcoming games at legal online and mobile sportsbooks. Just click on the NHL tab and the main lobby will be populated with the upcoming contests. Here’s what a sample game listing looks like.

 PucklineMoneylineTotal
Washington Capitals+1.5 (-150)+140O 5.5 (-110)
Vegas Golden Knights-1.5 (+130)-120U 5.5 (-110)

To the right of the two team names are a series of numbers, each of which represents the odds for the three main bet types. Let’s walk through those three wagers and what the odds mean.

Puckline

This is the NHL equivalent of a point spread bet. Oddsmakers will set the line, and you then get to pick the favorite minus a certain amount of goals or go with the underdog plus the handicap.

Unlike other sports in which the spread can be all over the map, the vast majority of the time it will be set at 1.5 for NHL. Also, the odds will fluctuate more here than they will for other spread bets. A standard NFL or NBA point spread bet has a baseline of -110 on both sides that varies slightly based on how the betting action comes in. You’ll see wider swings in the NHL on this front.

  • Washington Capitals        +1.5 (-150)
  • Vegas Golden Knights      -1.5 (+130)

Moneyline

This is a simple bet in which you are simply choosing the side you think will be the winner of the game. There will be odds on both sides, negative for favorites and positive for underdogs, which will also adjust as wagers begin to come in.

As a general rule, the tighter the range between the two numbers, then the closer the matchup is on an overall basis. A big disparity between the two numbers on the moneyline points to a potential mismatch.

  • Washington Capitals        -140
  • Vegas Golden Knights     +120

Totals

A totals bet revolves around the total combined goals that will be scored in the game. Oddsmakers set the bar with an estimate, and bettors then get to choose if they think the total goals will be over or under that mark when all is said and done. The odds will start in the range of -110 on both sides and then potentially move based on how the action gets in. For totals, a majority of NHL games will be set at 5.5.

  • Over     5.5 (-110)
  • Under   5.5 (-110)

For starters, get a good handle on the basic bet types. Afterward, you can begin to explore the rest of the wagering menu in which you’ll find plenty of other intriguing opportunities to explore.

NHL alternate puckline

As mentioned, the puckline is almost always set at 1.5 goals for NHL. However, certain operators will also offer alternative pucklines, such as a team plus or minus one or two goals. Naturally, the odds will vary for these wagers, but you can often find some serious potential bang for the buck.

  • Boston Bruins                 -2.5 (+400)
  • Tampa Bay Lightning     +2.5 (-530)

NHL 60-minute line betting

For games that remain tied after regulation time, there’s an overtime period to help decide things. During the regular season, teams move on to a shootout if they’re still tied after OT. In the postseason, clubs will keep playing OT periods until a winner is declared. For this wager type, you can remove those variables from the equation and simply focus on what the result will be at the end of normal time.

  • Dallas Stars                  +155
  • Colorado Avalanche    +135
  • Tie                                +265

NHL period betting

To drill down even further into the game, you can simply focus on which side will win each period. NHL first-period betting has grown in popularity in recent years, but some operators also offer odds for the other periods. If you have a good feel for how teams play during certain stretches of a game, these are great wagers to focus on. In the event of a tie for the period, the bet will be graded as a push.

  • First period:
    • New York Islanders   -120
    • Philadelphia Flyers   +100

NHL parlays

Parlay bets are popular bets since they offer up the chance for great returns off of small amounts. These are bets on multiple outcomes on a single betting slip. For each choice you add, the potential return rises, but so too does the risk involved. As an example, you could put together a parlay ticket with four different NHL moneyline outcomes.

  • Four-team parlay:
    • Tampa Bay Lightning       -110
    • Vancouver Canucks        +175
    • Philadelphia Flyers          -110
    • Dallas Stars                     +105
    • Total parlay odds            +1955
    • Winning Parlay bet of $20 returns: $390.93

Live betting on NHL games

NHL games can be incredibly fast-paced as it is but live betting (or in game betting) lets you take the action to a whole new level as you can bet right along in real-time as the action plays out on the ice.

This segment of sports betting has grown tremendously in recent times. It’s now a must-have option for online sportsbooks, and many of them have stellar platforms that make getting bets in very efficient.

The market moves fast, and NHL odds and offerings can go by quickly as a result. However, the good news is that you’ll have plenty of different opportunities to explore throughout the average game. For example:

  • What will be the result of the power play – Capitals Power Play Goal/Knights Penalty Kill?
  • Which side will have more shots on goal in period two – Canadiens or Penguins?
  • Will Alex Ovechkin score a goal in period three – Yes/No?

Live betting action gets underway as soon as the puck drops for the contest, and it doesn’t end until the game is official. It’s a great way to remain further engaged with the game, but remember to always bet with your head and not over it.

Other popular ways to bet on the NHL

There are two more great ways to get in on the action; one lets you zero in even closer on the individual games while the other affords you the chance to predict how the season as a whole will play out.

For each NHL game, there will be some prop betting opportunities offered. You can find them by clicking through on the individual game listings. Many of them will revolve around the performances of individual players, so it’s a great entry point for those that have experience with fantasy sports.

  • Who will have more goals plus assists in the game – Sidney Crosby or Nathan MacKinnon?
  • What will be the total number of saves for Marc-Andre Fleury – Over/Under 29.5?
  • Will Connor McDavid score two goals or more in the game – Yes/No?

There will also be props offered on a specific team or game circumstances, such as which side will have more shots or the over/under on the number of penalties in the contest.

The NHL futures market remains active nearly all year round. These are hockey bets you can place on an outcome that won’t be known until down the road. The most popular bet on this front has to do with the winner of the Stanley Cup, but there’s a whole lot more to see here.

  • Stanley Cup winner: You can place your bets on the next team to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup.
  • Division/Conference winners: Wager on the teams you think will take down either when the season is in the books.
  • Which team will make or not make the playoffs: Have a good idea on how the postseason bracket will shake out?
  • Team regular-season win totals: Oddsmakers will set the bar, and you then get to choose between the over or under on that number.
  • Individual player awards: Place your wagers on players to win honors such as the Hart or Vezina Trophy.

Futures odds for all of the above are released in the offseason. From there, the NHL betting public gets its chance to weigh in. For the team-based futures, you’ll find odds for all 32 teams, ranging from favorites to longshots.

On the individual awards, there will be odds listed for all of those with at least a chance of taking down the trophy. You can focus on a local favorite, such as Alex Ovechkin to win the Hart, or explore out of market options such as Andrei Vasilevsky to win the Vezina.

Each of the above futures can be easily found at most major operators. Just click on the NHL link and there should be a dedicated tab for available futures. Some operators will also go the extra mile and offer up futures for other NHL markets, such as:

  • NHL Winter Classic: Lines can sometimes come out early for one of the signature events on the NHL calendar. Typically held around New Year’s Day, this is an outdoor contest that attracts tons of attention.
  • NHL All-Star Game: Usually held around the midway point of the season, the top stars in the league for the season at hand get invited to compete. You can get your NHL bets in early on the winning side.
  • NHL Skills Competition: As part of All-star weekend, there are some skills competitions for players to test their mettle against their peers.

Futures are a great way to stay engaged with the NHL all year round, but it’s important to remember that the bets require a long-term view. Wagers won’t be graded and settled until the actual result is known.

NHL betting tips and strategy

If you’re starting from scratch with NHL betting, there will be a learning curve involved. For those who have at least a basic understanding of the sport, the curve will be that much shorter. Regardless of where you stand, it’s not too challenging to overcome it. Here are a few NHL betting tips to use and get off on the right foot.

1. Begin with the basics

There’s no need to try and master every bet type right off of the bat. Start with the standard NHL game bets, such as moneyline, puckline, and totals. Get a good handle on one or two of them to start, and then add on the third. Once you have a solid understanding of all three and how they work, you’ll have a better sense of which ones work best for you. From there, you can begin exploring the rest of the NHL wagering menu.

2. Know what to research

Before you place your bets, it’s time to break down the games you are interested in. You’ll want to spend time researching the strengths and weaknesses on both sides, determine how big of a factor home ice might be for the contest, and dive into any rest or injury concerns. Be sure to review the NHL news and notes surrounding the game to see if there’s anything relevant. While examining the teams, start with the basics and work your way out: Goals for and against, shots for and against, power play, and penalty kill percentages, for example.

3. Understand the type of bettor you are

Do you plan on making the NHL a staple of your overall betting strategy? Or are you just looking to bet on the occasional game here and there? Knowing the difference is important as it’ll help you form your overall approach. For the advanced bettor, it’s worth taking the time to devise a handicapping strategy that you can call your own for NHL. Recreational types of bettors can stick to the basics or even lean on the research of others to make their calls on the games.

NHL season explained

The NHL season is structured similarly to the other major North American team-based sports. Here’s what you need to know.

NHL preseason

After a busy offseason in which the NHL entry draft and the free agency takes center stage, players report to the official start of camp about a month or so before the season begins. Each team plays a handful of preseason games as tuneups for the real deal.

Typically, these games are more or less showcases for younger talent. As such, there’s not too much to go off of for handicapping purposes. You can certainly bet on the games if you choose to, just know that preseason action is pretty unpredictable.

NHL regular season

The 2021-22 NHL season features a return to the regular 82-game schedule running from October 12 to April 29, with teams back playing in their regular divisions – Atlantic, Metropolitan, Central and Pacific.

The NHL follows a specific scheduling format each season to ensure uniformity across the league.

  • Each team plays 3-4 games against the others in its division.
  • Each team plays three games against the other clubs in its conference.
  • Each team plays all clubs from the other conference twice, once at home and once away.

Highlights during the regular season include the annual outdoor game, the Winter Classic, and the NHL All-Star Game. After the regular season, 16 teams advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

NHL playoffs

There are four rounds in total for the playoffs: Opening round, second round, Stanley Cup Semifinals, and Stanley Cup Finals. Each series is contested under best-of-seven rules, which means that the first team to win four games advances to the next round.

The top three teams from each of the four divisions plus two teams with the next best records from each conference make it to the postseason. In the opening round, the top seeds play the wild-card teams, and the second and third seeds play each other. The winners then play each other in the second round and semifinal round. The two winning teams will then face off for the Stanley Cup Finals.

Who are the best NHL players from Virginia?

There hasn’t been a ton of NHL talent from VA through the years. However, that could be changing in the coming years as there are some interesting prospects in the pipeline. Here’s a quick look at a pair of players who hailed from VA and went on to lengthy NHL careers.

  • Eric Weinrich, D, 1,157 games: The 32nd-overall pick for the New Jersey Devils in the 1985 NHL entry draft, Weinrich went on to have a lengthy career with stops in numerous places. He scored 70 goals and notched 318 assists over a pro career that spanned from 1989-2006.
  • Scott Lachance, D, 819 games: Lachance was selected fourth overall by the New York Islanders in the 1991 NHL entry draft. His career lasted from 1992 to 2004 and included multiple stops along the way. Lachance put the biscuit in the basket 31 times and recorded 112 assists over his pro career.

A trio of other players from VA has also made it to the NHL.

  • Scott Darling, G, 126 games
  • Chris Bala, LW, 6 games
  • Jim Walsh, D, 4 games

Darling, hailing from Newport News, was picked in the 6th round of the 2007 NHL entry draft by the Phoenix Coyotes. To date, he has posted a record of 54-42-18 with a 2.72 goals-against average.

NHL Betting FAQ

What does an NHL puckline bet mean?

The puckline bet is the NHL equivalent of a point spread wager. You can choose the favorite minus a designated number of goals, or take the underdog plus the extra cushion. The puckline is generally set at 1.5 goals for standard bets, but alternative puckline opportunities are offered by some operators.

How do totals betting work in hockey?

The totals bet for NHL works just like the over/under for other team-based sports. Oddsmakers set a benchmark number, and bettors then get to choose the over or under. For hockey, a large majority of games are set at 5.5 goals by oddsmakers. You won’t see too many NHL totals over 6 goals during a season, and it would be incredibly rare to see one set under 5.

Does overtime or shootout count for NHL moneyline betting?

On a standard NHL moneyline bet, overtime and shootouts count towards the final result. For moneyline wagering, you’re simply picking the winner of the contest. Games that aren’t decided during regulation will head to extra time, while a shootout is also added on during the regular season if there’s still no winner. For an alternative, some operators offer a wager on just the 60 minutes of regulation time with a tie listed as one of the options.

How many rounds are there for the NHL Playoffs?

The NHL Playoffs include a total of four rounds. After the regular season, the top three teams from the Atlantic, Metropolitan, Central and Pacific Divisions plus two conference wild-card teams advance to the postseason. It’s a single-elimination tournament with each series contested under best-of-seven rules. After the opening round, that means eight teams move on. The four winners from the second round move on to the Stanley Cup Semifinals, while the winners of that round make the Stanley Cup finals.

Does the starting goalie impact NHL betting odds?

Yes. Who is officially starting in the net can have an impact on the betting odds. In extreme cases in which there’s a goalie injury or a massive lack of clarity on who might be starting, books will hold off on lines until they have more information. When regular starters are slated to go, books will price the NHL betting lines accordingly based on the overall strengths of the teams. For games in which the backups get a turn, the numbers can be impacted in comparison to how they would be priced with the normal starter.