Heading into the 2020-21 NHL season, it should be no surprise Igor Shesterkin and Alexis Lafreniere are at the top of the odds board to win the Calder Trophy for Rookie of the Year.
Shesterkin, the 5/2 favorite at BetMGM, has a solid résumé dating back to his time in Russia and is primed to take over the Rangers’ crease after getting his feet wet by going 10-2 in a dozen games of NHL action last season. Lafreniere, the 3/1 second choice, was the Rangers first-overall pick in 2020 and looks like the real deal. Fans of the team should be optimistic both players will get consideration for the award at the end of the year (barring injury), as they both deserve to be favorites.
From a betting perspective, however, Lafreniere or Shesterkin are not good picks to take home the hardware. There are so many things that could derail a season and it’s extremely tough to estimate the true chances a particular player will win an award in the best of times, let alone during a pandemic. It is possible to find value in these markets, but you have to resist the urge to back favorites and commit to only bet on long shots that are being overlooked.
Several shops, including BetMGM and DraftKings in New Jersey, are offering Ilya Sorokin at 27/1 to win the award and have made a mistake doing so. Sorokin is projected to assert himself as the New York Islanders’ starting goaltender in 2021 and beyond, and his pedigree is very similar to that of Shesterkin. The only difference is that the latter has 12 games of NHL experience and is somewhat of a known commodity.
If Shesterkin is a favorite then it’s only logical that oddsmakers should at least give Sorokin an outside chance. As far as Lafreniere goes, only five first-overall picks have won the Calder Trophy since 2000. It’s been awarded to a goaltender three times in that same span.
Although Shesterkin projects to get more starts, Sorokin very well could end up starting more games than Semyon Varlamov. The KHL season is 62 games and Sorokin averaged nearly 40 games per season since 2017-18. It’s a very similar workload to the one he could see in this upcoming 56-game NHL season, so bettors should be confident he will be up to the task. If you do have great things projected for Shesterkin (and the Rangers) in 2021, I would recommend betting him to win the Vezina Trophy at 16/1 instead.
It all gets underway Jan. 13. At 25/1 at BetMGM, the Islanders currently have slightly better odds of winning the 2020-2021 Stanley Cup than the Rangers do at 30/1. Both teams are going to have their hands full in the newly formed East division. The Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers are tied for the fourth-best odds at 14/1 while the Washington Capitals (20/1) and Pittsburgh Penguins (22/1) are also in the top 10. By my estimation, both the Rangers and the Islanders have less than a 50 percent chance of making the playoffs, but it’s not out of reach for either team.
Andy MacNeil writes about hockey for VSIN.com, The Sports Betting Network.
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