NHL picks: 4 best bets for Thursday
Andrew Berkshire picks out his four best bets for Thursday, including three anytime goalscorer props.
If there has ever been an example for why patience and trusting in the numbers pays off, it’s Valeri Nichushkin. In 2018-19 Nichushkin was 23-years-old, the age when forwards begin to hit their prime production years. He showed a lot of promise if you looked at underlying metrics, but in 57 games for the Dallas Stars, he scored 0 goals. Four years later he’s a Stanley Cup champion who was key to that victory, and he’s tied for the league lead in goals and points in this young season. Luckily, analytics don’t usually take 3-4 years to follow through on promise.
Timo Meier (San Jose Sharks) to score anytime vs Toronto Maple Leafs
Trust in the process, trust in the numbers, right? Well Timo Meier has one of the highest expected goal counts in the NHL so far this year at 4.1, but he hasn’t hit mesh a single time. The San Jose Sharks are not a good team at all, and they’ll be in tough against a vastly superior Toronto Maple Leafs squad, but Meier has that many expected goals because he’s getting chances.
After scoring 35 goals last year on a similarly bad Sharks team, we know Meier is capable of lighting the lamp in this exact situation, and the stocky Swiss forward is one of the best players in the league at getting high quality chances on his own.
Auston Matthews (Toronto Maple Leafs) to score anytime vs San Jose Sharks
Was Matthews hurt by Jamie Benn last week? Definitely possible, but the fact is even if he’s hurt, he’s still getting glorious chances to score almost constantly. Like Meier, Matthews has one of the best expected goals counts in the league so far at 3.95, but even that vastly undercounts how many goals Matthews should have.
Over the previous three seasons Matthews has scored 148 regular season goals on 97.65 expected goals based on where he takes his shots, so he has outperformed expected goals models by more than 150 per cent. Eventually that dam will burst, and when it does, it’ll be disastrous for opponents.
Kyle Connor (Winnipeg Jets) to score anytime vs Los Angeles Kings
Another of the top goalscorers in the NHL has started this season ice cold. Kyle Connor scored 47 goals last season, and 111 over the last three years, but has only found the net a single time in six games this year. Connor has produced shots that compile to produce an expected goal rate over three times what we’re seeing so far, but there’s more to it once again.
Like Matthews, he’s a player that outperforms modelling, as he was only expected to score 86.36 goals over the last three seasons, and has exceeded that by 128.5 per cent. All these players are due to get their goals.
Vancouver Canucks to beat Seattle Kraken
They have to win eventually, right? There’s no way the Vancouver Canucks, as mediocre as they are, can continue this run of futility for much longer. Now that J.T. Miller appears to have awoken from the slumber he started this season in, even with the injury issues the Canucks are dealing with, they should be able to find a way to beat a similarly mediocre Seattle Kraken team.
Starting 0-5-2 has been a nightmare for the Canucks, to the point where executives are publicly talking about rebuilds and failing to give head coach Bruce Boudreau the cursory vote of confidence. Maybe with some of the pressure of expectations taken off, the Canucks can start simply playing, and find a way to win.