NHL betting guide: Tips and strategies for preseason wagering
NHL hockey is back ... kind of. A rather lengthy preseason schedule begins this weekend, with games coming in bunches from Saturday until Oct. 7.
While there's a perception that you shouldn't bet on meaningless games, per se, there's a big edge in preseason if you know what to look for.
Let's dig into some important things to know and consider when betting on preseason action.
Lineup depth is key
When deciding which teams to back, you generally want your side to have more depth than the opponent. The greater the difference, the better served you'll be.
It's important not to see a couple of big names and race to back that team. Star players don't carry the same workload in preseason as the regular season and don't have much to gain from playing. They're not going to compensate for a very thin roster lacking NHL-caliber players.
Let's say Team X has nine forwards and four defensemen who are either established NHLers or players on professional tryouts fighting for jobs in camp. That lineup is much more preferable to Team Y dressing one very good line, one pairing, and a bunch of low-ceiling AHL fillers dressed only to gain some experience.
Brand names themselves don't matter a ton. You want to find spots where you can back a side with five, six, or seven NHL-level players more than the opponent.
Best lineups saved for home fans
Coaches tend to save their deepest lineups and best players for home crowds, which makes sense. You don't want to "reward" your fans for buying tickets and coming to games by icing a lineup full of players who will spend little to no time in the NHL throughout their careers.
It's important to remember that because there will be plenty of times when you can put two and two together and get out in front of the market.
Let me provide an example. Let's say the Ducks are playing in Arizona on Friday night and hosting the Sharks on Saturday night. Meanwhile, the Sharks are hosting the Kings on Friday night before playing in Anaheim on Saturday.
You can safely assume the Ducks will send a bunch of prospects, AHLers, and PTO candidates to Arizona, while a much more NHL-heavy lineup will stay back to face the Sharks on Saturday. You can also assume the Sharks will dress a competent lineup versus the Kings, leaving less talent available for the Ducks game.
If there are odds where the Ducks may be anywhere close to a pick 'em, it'll often be best to jump on that play before even seeing an official lineup come out. Lines move extremely fast in preseason, and the swings routinely take teams from -120 on open to -250 by close. You need to act fast. Tracking what clubs are doing a day or two in advance is a good way to prepare for that.
As alluded to above, one of the keys - perhaps the biggest - is getting behind lineups with noticeably more NHL-caliber players than your opponent. If you follow cuts closely, you give yourself extra opportunities to do just that.
Some teams like to trim the fat early and work only with the cream of the crop for a few games. That means their lineups will be littered with NHL players and those on the bubble.
Other teams like to rest their NHL roster as much as possible and carry 30-35-plus players until at or near the end of the preseason schedule. If you follow what teams are doing closely, there are edges to be had.
Perhaps Team Y is a big road underdog because home sides traditionally ice the better rosters. But if Team Y only has 26 players in camp (23 of which make the final team), they can't really ice a "bad" lineup.
That's a scenario where you can play the road side early. At worst, you're getting a team with a comparably strong lineup priced like the matchup is one-sided.
Late nights are your friends
There can be real value in staying up late. Be it on their main accounts or PR accounts (the latter can be extremely valuable since not as many eyes are on them), teams often tweet out a list of players who will or have already traveled for the next day's game.
That provides you valuable information to make a bet at a time when the market will move a lot slower than it usually would.
If you don't have an early morning, staying up for those 1 a.m. lineup dumps from West Coast teams can be worthwhile.
Todd Cordell is a sports betting writer at theScore. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @ToddCordell.
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