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While it seems like the 2022-23 National Hockey League season just started, we are already nearly at the halfway point, with some teams edging very close to the 41-games played mark in the final days of December.

People always say they need to see a bigger sample size to start figuring out which teams are the contenders and which are the pretenders, and we are basically at that point: with half the season in the rearview mirror, certain teams have made it clear that they are in this for the long haul.

The one thing that makes the NHL regular season more exciting than some of the other sports with long seasons (NBA, MLB) is that the eight-team playoff races in each conference usually go down to the wire. And with the play of goaltenders so key in the postseason, any team that gets in can make a deep run: the last two decades are littered with low seeds that made runs to the conference finals, the Stanley Cup Finals, and even the title (2012 LA Kings stand up).

With all that in mind, have US sportsbooks and bettors around the country figured out which NHL teams might be for real, and which ones might struggle in the second half and the playoffs?

It sure looks like it.

There was no hotter team in the NHL through 30 games than the Boston Bruins, who have torn apart the Eastern Conference and taken an eight-point lead over the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Atlantic Division and conference standings. Online sportsbooks in New York state for example have pushed the Bruins up to the second choice to win the Stanley Cup, with Toronto the sixth choice.

Two other teams that have made headlines for their hot play in 2022 have been the Vegas Golden Knights and the New Jersey Devils. Both lead divisions right now, and both are in the top five odds to win the Stanley Cup.

But there is one team, which sits fourth in their division and seventh in their conference, that has the confidence of bettors all over the country: the Colorado Avalanche.

Colorado, the defending Stanley Cup champion, had a sluggish start to the season (title hangover?) and a slight swoon in the first week of December. But the Avs go into the new year on a little bit of a roll, and most fans–and bettors–expect them to turn it on in 2023.

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