Surprisingly, the reigning champion Tampa Bay Lightning do not sit atop the early odds table as the favorite to become the 2021 NHL champions. That honour has instead gone to the Colorado Avalanche, who currently have league-best 8.50 odds on 888sport. Following them with 9.00 odds are the Vegas Golden Knights, a squad that, like the Avs, failed to reach the Stanley Cup Finals last season. Because of this oversight, the reigning Stanley Cup champion-Lightning are offering a ton of value with 10.00 odds after winning it all last year as wire-to-wire favorites. Tampa didn’t have a first-round pick in last month’s draft, but they didn’t really need one, as they will see nearly their entire core from last year’s triumphant team returning for another go ‘round. They do, however, need to re-sign blossoming young blue-liner Mikhail Sergachev, who remains a restricted free agent. And did I mention they won it all last year with their best player and captain Steven Stamkos playing all of 2:47 during their playoff run? Yeah, he’ll be back to full health for 2021, so watch out. Colorado, while sitting at the top of the odds table, still offers some solid value with 8.50 odds when you consider who they’ll be bringing back. Nathan MacKinnon (who could be a good shout to win next year’s Hart Trophy), Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog, who combined for a whopping 59 points in 44 playoff games last season, will all be returning. They also bring back nearly every other significant contributor from last year’s dominant team, including impressive defenseman Cale Makar as well as potent goalscorers Nazem Kadri and Andre Burakovsky. If it wasn’t for those pesky Dallas Stars and their sudden burst of offense in late August, this very well might have been the team raising the Cup last year. The time has likely passed for the Avs to sign any big netminders so they’ll have to make due with a Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz tandem that gave up 20 goals in their four losses to the Stars in the second round of last season’s playoffs. If general manager Joe Sakic does somehow secure someone dominant between the pipes, a bet on Colorado now will most likely prove very profitable. Following the Avs on the odds table are the team the Stars eliminated after them during last year’s playoffs, the Golden Knights. Vegas, which currently has 9.00 odds on 888sport, are in a similar situation as the Avs, with all of the offensive firepower you could ask for and no one in net to stop the other guys. Though they did make a big splash in signing elite blue-liner Alex Pietrangelo a few weeks ago. Robin Lehner was disappointing during last year’s playoff run and will likely depart in free agency, leaving the Knights with aging Marc-Andre Fleury as their only option. Vegas wants to win now, but until they sort out their goaltending situation, I’d steer clear of any big-time bets on them. A few long shot bets you might want to consider would be the Pittsburgh Penguins at 10th with 21.00 odds and the Edmonton Oilers at 12th with 24.00 odds on 888sport. Both of these teams had very disappointing early exits from last year’s playoffs after shrinking as the heaviest favorites in the NHL bubble’s play-in round. Those early exits will have put chips on the shoulders of franchises that are already jam-packed with talent that they had so much success with last year before the NHL’s hiatus. If you want to get risky and frisky with your NHL 2021 futures, go with Edmonton or Pittsburgh, but if you’re looking for the closest to a sure thing there is, you can’t go wrong with Colorado or Tampa Bay as it stands.