While it doesn’t seem as if interest in the NHL could possibly grow even more in Ontario, there’s a very real possibility that it will skyrocket as we move forward. Legal single-game wagering appears to be on its way to Canada before too long.
That means fans and bettors will have even more ways to get in on the hockey action. When wagering on single games, one factor is an absolute must to research, regardless of what your overall approach to handicapping may be: the odds.
The odds for NHL games will provide insight on a variety of factors once you get up to speed. This complete guide to NHL odds aims to shorten that curve. By the time you’re through, you’ll have a handle on how they work for all of the top NHL wagers.
Latest NHL betting odds
For each game, legal sportsbooks will release odds. It’s not uncommon to see movement in the numbers in response to betting action and new developments.
Our customizable live odds feed can keep up with the changes and help you compare prices and bets across the industry. Line shopping can be a big key to a profitable betting strategy, and the odds feed makes it easy to do so. You can see how it works below.
NHL opening lines
Odds for NHL games will generally come out either the night before a contest or no later than the day of. If there’s a delay in the numbers for a specific game, that means that oddsmakers are waiting on a key piece of information, such as the injury status of a top player.
The main game listing will feature the odds for the big three NHL bets: moneylines, puck lines and totals. Here’s an example of what you might see:
- Winnipeg Jets +120 +1.5 (-220) O 5.5 (-110)
- Toronto Maple Leafs -140 -1.5 (+180) U 5.5 (-110)
When you are reading the odds, negative numbers indicate favourites and positive numbers indicate underdogs. For the puck line and total, there’s the number set by the oddsmaker — 1.5 and 5.5 in this case — as well as the actual odds for placing the bet.
If we go through the numbers for the Leafs and Jets from our example, we can see that Toronto is favoured on the moneyline, a 1.5-goal favourite on the puck line, and the game has an estimated total of 5.5 goals.
After sportsbooks release their opening lines, bets will begin to flow in. Sportsbooks may adjust the numbers in response to what happens. If bettors pile in on one side, they’ll shift things around in a bid to bring more action to the other side.
As for when to get your bets in, there are pros and cons to both getting in right away or waiting a bit.
- Betting the opening line
- Pro: Wager on the freshest number from oddsmakers without worrying about market reaction.
- Con: New information may emerge after the initial release that makes the odds less attractive.
- Betting before puck drop
- Pro: All information has been factored in, and you have a real-time look at market perception.
- Con: Numbers will have shifted in response to action and news, and not always in the direction you were hoping.
When handicapping NHL games, it’s always a good idea to analyze any movements in the numbers from the initial release until the time you are ready to bet. This will give you a clear picture of market direction and potentially point you to news you may have missed.
Most popular bets for NHL games
Here’s a breakdown of the three most popular hockey betting options for beginning NHL bettors.
If you’ve ever chosen which side you think will win an NHL game, then you’ve done exactly what you need to do for a moneyline bet. This is a simple and straightforward wager. You are simply choosing the winning side from between the favourite or underdog.
- Ottawa Senators +190
- Edmonton Oilers -210
The concept is simple, but don’t mistake that for meaning this is an easy wager to win. Anything can happen on the ice, even when you make the best possible decision based on your handicapping prior to game time.
The span between the two numbers tells you the expected closeness of the matchup. In our example, it’s a big range with the Oilers checking in as favourites. A matchup with a smaller gap — such as -140/+120 — projects to be a tighter game.
Sportsbooks will always display the potential return on winning bets, but it’s good to know how to estimate it. At negative odds of -210, you’d have to bet $210 to get $100 back. For odds of +190, you’d get back $190 for a $100 winner. In each case you also get your initial bet back on a successful wager.
NHL puck line
The puck line bet is unique to the NHL, but there are variants in other sports. The NFL and NBA use what’s known as the point spread, which works the same way: The side you pick has to cover the spread. In the case of the NHL, it’s the puck line.
The default for the puck line is 1.5 at legal sportsbooks, but you’ll find alternative spreads in the more wagers section at many books, with numbers such as 2.5 goals. For our example, bettors on the Canadiens expect them to win by two goals or more.
If you’ve wagered on the Flames, that means you expect them to keep it to a goal. Calgary can also cover by winning the game outright. If the final score is 5-3 in favour of Montreal, the Canadiens have covered, but they fail to do so at 2-1. On the Calgary side, it’s the opposite: a 2-1 loss equals a cover, while a 5-3 defeat means they failed to do so.
It’s a challenging bet, but also one that helps to make any game entertaining from a betting perspective. For our example, payouts on the Canadiens would check in at $175 for a $100 bet at odds of +175. On the Calgary side, we’d have to lay out $195 at -195 to get back $100 on a successful bet.
The last of the main pregame bets are totals bets, which are all about the total number of goals that the two teams will score in the game. The sportsbooks set the bar with an estimated number. Bettors then wager on if they think the actual total will be over or under that number.
- Over 5.5 (-110)
- Under 5.5 (-110)
Also known as over/unders, totals will be 5.5 for many NHL games. A potential goaltending duel could have a line of 5.0, while you could see a line of 6.0 or more when oddsmakers anticipate a higher-scoring affair.
For this example, an over bettor is looking for six or more goals. A final of 4-2 works just fine, but 3-2 misses the mark. Under bettors want the opposite to happen: 3-2 equals a winning ticket, while 4-2 means they lose.
Odds for totals generally begin at -110 on both sides and adjust in response to betting action. At these numbers, we’d have to bet $110 to get $100 back on a winning bet. If we placed an even $100 wager, the potential profit is $90.90.
NHL futures odds
NHL futures bets provide another popular style of wagering. Instead of just betting on a single game, the focus is on results for the season as a whole. Odds will come out before the season gets underway and remain active from there. Here are some of the most popular options:
- Stanley Cup winner
- Conference and division winners
- Teams to qualify for or miss playoffs
- Over/under on total points or regular season wins for individual teams
- Individual award winners — Hart, Vezina, etc.
Using the Stanley Cup winner as an example, odds for next year will come out soon after the current champion is crowned. There will be Stanley Cup odds for all teams in the league, and they’ll adjust in response to betting action and shifting circumstances as the season moves along. Odds for a few of the teams at the top of the charts might look like this:
- Colorado Avalanche +550
- Tampa Bay Lightning +650
- Toronto Maple Leafs +750
If you think this is finally the Leafs’ year to take a victory lap with the Cup, you could place a $100 bet at odds of +750. A magical moment for Toronto would translate into $750 coming back your way. Winning futures bets can be quite lucrative, but remember that these are wagers that can’t be settled until the outcome actually happens, so budget accordingly.
Line shopping is also important for futures. Beyond making the right call, you’ll also want to find the best possible prices for your choices. You can spread the risk out with multiple selections, or simply focus on the choice that you feel best about. Futures betting can be a fantastic way to capture some additional season-long rooting interest.
Other types of NHL bets
The NHL menu is filled with choices at legal sportsbooks. For each game on the docket, you can explore the available props. Once the action gets underway, you can wager in real time. You can also tie some bets together in a bid for bigger returns. Here’s a look at another trio of popular NHL bets.
NHL prop betting
If you click on a game listing, you’ll see the available props for that contest. A prop bet can revolve around the entire game, team performance or the accomplishments of individual players. Here are some examples:
- Will Mitch Marner score a goal — yes/no?
- Which side will have more shots in the game — Canucks or Red Wings?
- Total number of goals scored will be — odd/even?
The above props work like moneyline bets with odds on both sides. There are also multiple-choice props that will resemble futures bets with numbers attached to all selections. Prop betting expands the list of betting possibilities for each NHL game.
NHL live betting
A fast-growing part of the sports betting industry, live betting lets you wager in real time as the game plays out on the ice. There will be updated odds for the main pregame bets as well as plenty of other options to consider.
- Which team will score the game’s first goal — Bruins or Sabres?
- Result of this power play will be — goal/kill?
- Is this game going to overtime — yes/no?
The market moves quickly, but platforms from the top sportsbooks are built for the task. Once the games get underway, you’ll be able to see all of the current live betting odds or focus on what’s happening in a single game.
NHL parlay betting
Parlays can pay out a lot in relation to the amount that you bet. This is because you include multiple selections on a single slip. In order to win, you have to be right on all of them, such as three puck line wagers:
- Panthers +1.5 (-240) over Hurricanes
- Lightning -1.5 (-111) over Blue Jackets
- Rangers -1.5 (+158) over Flyers
- Total parlay odds: +595
As you add choices to a parlay, the potential return rises. However, so too does the risk. If you miss a single choice, then your bet loses. While it’s possible to make a nice score with a parlay, be sure to be realistic with your expectations.
NHL Pro-Line odds vs. online sportsbooks
For over 20 years, Ontarians have had one legal sports betting option at their disposal in the form of Pro-Line. It’s offered by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. and is available online and at retail locations. While there are a few ways to play, it’s quite different from what you’ll find at legal sportsbooks.
Pro-Line is based on parlay wagers. It offers contests where you can choose from listed options, and others that require you to make a certain number of selections. In order to win, the majority of games require you to be correct on all of your choices, while some reward the top-scoring card.
At legal sportsbooks, meanwhile, customers have many more options to explore. Most importantly, they can choose the NHL games they want to focus on without being limited to what’s available on Pro-Line. Additionally, there will be clear-cut listings of what the odds are for each choice.
Pro-Line does have odds, spreads and props, but it’s just a different world. Sportsbooks present many more choices for consumers, and also more reasonable chances of winning. While it’s certainly possible to nail all of your parlay card selections, users have the chance for much more consistency with single-game wagers.
Sportsbook rules for betting on hockey
All legal sportsbooks have specific rules that cover things like placing and settling bets, as well as any other ins and outs that may impact wagers. They’re known as house rules. In a nutshell, they provide cover for sportsbooks while letting users know what to expect. For NHL betting, here are some of the key notes to keep in mind.
- NHL pregame bets are inclusive of overtime and shootout periods, unless expressly noted otherwise.
- Wagers that are noted as “regulation only” or “60 minutes” include only the first three periods of regular time.
- For player prop bets, overtime periods count, but shootouts do not. If a listed player fails to suit up or see action during the game, sportsbooks will void and refund bets on that player.
- All bets are live once the game gets underway. They’ll remain active if there’s a slight delay, but a full cancellation will lead to the sportsbook voiding and refunding bets.
- In the unlikely event of the complete cancellation of a season, all futures bets will be off and refunded.
While the above covers most of the major points, you should still take the time to review the house rules at the books where you plan to play. There are a lot of similarities in the rules across the industry, but also some quirks where sportsbooks handle things in slightly different fashion from their peers.