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NHL Buy/Sell: Fade the Devils, buy the Sabres out of the gates

Bettors should circle the New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres for the opening week of the season

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - SEPTEMBER 30: Jack Hughes #86 of the New Jersey Devils skates against the New York Rangers at the Prudential Center on September 30, 2022 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - SEPTEMBER 30: Jack Hughes #86 of the New Jersey Devils skates against the New York Rangers at the Prudential Center on September 30, 2022 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)Read moreBRUCE BENNETT / Getty Images

Even if you aren’t someone who places futures bets, one way you can use the season-long market to your benefit is using it to identify teams that may be overvalued or underrated head into a new season.

Formulating those opinions — and being able to adjust if they’re wrong — is a huge part of betting, especially early on in a campaign.

After taking a look at the betting big picture, here are two teams that are worth circling before the NHL season starts:

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Fade: New Jersey Devils (+165 to make playoffs, BetMGM)

The Devils were supposed to take a step forward last season but things went pear-shaped quickly. Mackenzie Blackwood struggled to stay healthy and to play well, No. 2 goalie Jonathan Bernier got injured and the team didn’t get a great season out of prized free agent signing Dougie Hamilton. Throw in injury-plagued seasons for Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier and you can see why the Devils landed on 63 points at season’s end.

While you’d expect Blackwood and new deputy, Vitek Vanecek, to provide better numbers for the Devils than they got from their six goaltenders in 2021-22, it’s still a tandem with more questions than answers and will be playing a blueline that won’t exactly set the world on fire.

After a splashy offseason in 2021 and a couple of notable additions this past summer, entire hockey world expects big things out of the Devils sooner rather than later. New Jersey’s underlying metrics suggested it was better than the actual results last season, Jack Hughes is repeatedly tapped to take a leap from strong player to star and Hamilton is a popular bounce-back candidate. If those things add up and the Devils get much better goaltending, then sure they can compete for a playoff spot, but that seems like a big ask for a team that finished on 63 points in 2021-22.

New Jersey opens the season with a trip to Philadelphia and considering how (rightfully) sour the market is on the Flyers, you’ll likely get a decent number to go against a team that likely won’t profile well as a favorite.

Buy: Buffalo Sabres (+325 to make playoffs, BetMGM)

A lot of ink has been spilled about how the Detroit Red Wings and Ottawa Senators are going to be good enough to close the gap between the haves and have-nots in the Atlantic Division. And while Detroit and Ottawa both have stronger rosters than the Sabres, it does seem like Buffalo is getting overlooked a little bit as we get closer to Opening Night.

That may sound like an endorsement on the Sabres as an interesting longshot bet to make the playoffs or go over their point total, but it’s more about where we’ll probably see the Sabres priced against other non-contenders.

While we may see the Senators and Red Wings catch too much hype on the heels of their glitzy offseasons, the Sabres are not receiving the same kind of love though they are not that far behind the still-flawed Sens and Wings.

With their offensive upside and a young, hungry roster that should be pesky, the Sabres should profile well as an underdog and we could see that pay dividends right out of the gates with games against the Senators, Panthers and Oilers, three teams that could be overrated to start the season.

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