Home International NHL Stanley Cup Final odds, predictions: Oilers vs. Panthers picks, best bets

NHL Stanley Cup Final odds, predictions: Oilers vs. Panthers picks, best bets

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Due to a combination of injuries, variance and bracket structure, it’s often debatable if the NHL’s Stanley Cup Final features a true best-on-best matchup.

Not only does this year’s final between the Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers look to be a battle of the two best teams in the league, but numerous other storylines make it particularly compelling.

Since being drafted first overall at the 2015 NHL entry draft in Sunrise, Fla., Connor McDavid has made a convincing case that he is the most talented player in the history of the sport. Now the game’s best player will look to fully cement his legacy by earning a Stanley Cup ring — and potentially his first Conn Smythe Trophy.

Going into the Stanley Cup Final, which starts Saturday in Sunrise (8 p.m. ET Saturday, ABC/ESPN+), the Oilers center is the favorite to take home the trophy given to the top player of the entire postseason.

Odds to win Conn Smythe Trophy

  • Connor McDavid +200
  • Sergei Bobrovsky +400
  • Aleksander Barkov +400
  • Matthew Tkachuk +600
  • Leon Draisaitl +750
  • Evan Bouchard +850

Odds via BetMGM

Oilers outlook

While McDavid and Leon Draisaitl will always garner most of the headlines, the Oilers have blossomed into a more well-rounded team this season which is highly deserving of this opportunity.

Edmonton entered the season as the odds-on Cup favorite, but after starting 5-12-1, the Oilers decided to move on from coach Jay Woodcroft.

New coach Kris Knoblauch helped the Oilers unlock their potential. Edmonton finished the regular season with 104 points, a league-leading 57.1% expected goal share and a Western Conference-leading +57 goal differential.

The Oilers own a 54.4% expected goal share in the playoffs and have been deserving winners in all three series. Still, Edmonton is priced as a +115 underdog in this series based on the dominant overall profile of the Panthers.

Connor McDavid and Aleksander Barkov will be seeing a lot of each other in the Stanley Cup Final. (Andy Devlin / Getty Images)

Panthers outlook

Florida return’s to the Stanley Cup Final for a second consecutive season, desperate to find a better result after being thoroughly outplayed by the Golden Knights in 2023.

This years’ iteration of the Panthers does appear to be a better team than the one that lost in five games in last year’s final. Florida finished the regular season with a league-leading +68 goal differential, 110 points and owned the second-best xGF% of 56.65.

All of Florida’s top forwards are excellent on the defensive side of things, led by Selke-winning center Aleksander Barkov. Barkov’s line will likely be matched up against McDavid’s unit as much as possible and will be assisted by arguably the best defensive defender in hockey, Gustav Forsling, on the back end.

Altogether, the Panthers feature more convincing talent further down the lineup. They feature a strong third line of Anton Lundell, Eetu Luostarainen and Vladimir Tarasenko, and they also own a superior second defensive pairing, compiled of Niko Mikkola and Brandon Montour.

Stanley Cup Final prediction & best bet

A perceived depth advantage is a key reason Florida is being power-ranked slightly above the Oilers by oddsmakers. The Panthers also feature a slightly more convincing goaltender in Sergei Bobrovsky, who is nominated for the Vezina trophy and owns a +4.2 GSAx this postseason.

There are compelling arguments for both sides in this series, and to me the prices look right with the Panthers priced as slight favorites.

It’s a safe bet to say that if the Oilers do find a way to win this series, it will be because their superstars found a way to outplay the Panthers’ top pieces. Chances are there will be several games in this series where the Oilers’ top units see lofty usage in trailing or even game scripts.

My favorite play remaining on the board is backing McDavid to win the Conn Smythe Trophy at +200.

McDavid has put up an absurd 31 points this postseason, which leads all Oilers by three, and is 12 points ahead of any Panthers skater. His defensive play at even strength was much improved this regular season, and that has continued into the postseason where he owns a 57.2% expected goal share in five-on-five play.

Given McDavid’s reputation and overall significance to the sport, he will likely receive some leniency from the PHWA (Professional Hockey Writers’ Association) in the vote if it becomes debatable who the most deserving winner is.

It’s also unlikely the Oilers can win this series without a strong performance from McDavid, and his lead in the race entering this series should already be viewed as significant.

There could also be an outside chance we see McDavid become the first player from a losing team to win the Conn Smythe since J.S. Giguere of the Anaheim Ducks in 2003.

Best bet: Connor McDavid to win the Conn Smythe Trophy (+200 at BetMGM and FanDuel)

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