How Do NHL Division Leaders On Jan. 1 Finish Season?

How Do NHL Division Leaders On Jan. 1 Finish Season?
Fact Checked by Jim Tomlin

The defending Stanley Cup champions have picked up right where they left off last season, no doubt rewarding their growing list of backers at legal online sportsbooks. The Vegas Golden Knights enter Thursday tied with the Vancouver Canucks for first place in the Pacific Division with 47 points, tied for the most in the league. Vegas (21-8-5) next faces the Panthers (18-12-2) at 3 p.m. on Dec. 23 to continue a road swing through Florida. The Knights lost to host Tampa Bay, 5-4, on Thursday.

Using, US Betting Report looked at how NHL teams that lead their division on Jan. 1 finish the season. Do they go on to win their division? Do they make the Stanley Cup final or even win it? We used data from the past five NHL seasons, starting with 2017-18 (excluding 2020-21, the season shortened because of COVID-19 restrictions) to develop the data.

Here are the results:

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How NHL Division Leaders On Jan. 1 Finish Seasons

Situation No. of Teams Percentage
Win Their Division 13 of 20 65.0%
Make Conference finals 8 of 20 40.0%
Make Stanley Cup final 4 of 20 20.0%
Win Stanley Cup 2 of 20 10.0%

Keep these numbers in mind when placing NHL wagers at mobile sports betting apps. Of the 20 teams we surveyed, 13 (or 65%) have gone on to win their divisions since 2017-18. Eight of those (or 40%) made their conference finals, four (20%) reached the Stanley Cup final and two won it all – last season’s Golden Knights and the 2018 Washington Capitals.

But it’s not an absolute rule that being a division leader on Jan. 1 means you’ll stay there. Two seasons ago, all four division leaders on New Year’s Day, including Vegas (also Tampa Bay, Washington and St. Louis) were overtaken in the final few months.

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Vegas Golden Knights Futures Betting

Entering Saturday’s contest, the Golden Knights have lost two straight games; however, they are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games. Those using the ESPN BET Sportsbook promo code could get these Golden Knights futures odds as of Friday afternoon: Vegas is the favorite (+135) to win the Pacific Division over the Los Angeles Kings (+170). To make the playoffs, the Golden Knights are an overwhelming favorite at -4000 to enter the postseason. They have +1500 odds to miss out.

The Golden Knights are tied with the Boston Bruins (+500) as the second favorite to win the President's Trophy, just behind the New York Rangers (+400). They are the second favorite (+400) to win the Western Conference behind the Colorado Avalanche (+350). To win the Stanley Cup, Vegas is the fourth choice at (+900). One thing is for sure, hockey season will be heating up over the next three winter months.



Lou Monaco is a reporter for Lou had been East Coast Scene columnist for Gaming Today in Las Vegas since June 2019, covering the East Coast sportsbook scene with emphasis on NJ and PA. He has over 30 years sports experience with previous stints at ESPN SportsTicker, Daily Racing Form and Oddschecker.