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NHL: Season update

The Boston Bruins, New Jersey Devils and Vegas Golden Knights are the early season pace setters in the NHL.

Trio setting the pace

Under new coach Jim Montgomery, the Bruins lead the standings with a 16-2-0 record and a +38 goal-differential.

To hire 53-year-old Montgomery, Boston, who are +650 to win the Stanley Cup, fired Bruce Cassidy and he was quickly snapped up by the Golden Knights where he has made an instant impression posting a 14-4-1 record.

A season removed from missing the playoffs for the first time in their five-year history, the Golden Knights, available at +750 to win the Stanley Cup, have enjoyed much better health, not least for Jack Eichel who has scored a team best 22 points and 10 goals.

The Devils meanwhile are the biggest surprise story, as after missing the playoffs for the past four seasons and then losing their first two games of the season, there were calls for coach Lindy Ruff to be fired.

After winning 12 in a row, 62-year-old Ruff is now +350 favourite to win the Jack Adams Trophy as coach of the year, and received a resounding apology from the Devils crowd recently.

Bedard sweepstakes

At the opposite end of the NHL and eyeing a shot at generational talent Connor Bedard in the draft are as expected, Anaheim Ducks (5-12-1), Arizona Coyotes (6-9-1) and Chicago Blackhawks (6-8-3) but also several teams who expected to be far more competitive.

These include Vancouver Canucks (6-9-3), Columbus Blue Jackets (6-10-1), Ottawa Senators (6-10-1) and Buffalo Sabres (7-11-0) particularly.

The Canucks haven't been able to translate their much-improved form under coach Bruce Boudreau during the second half of last season into the new campaign and are +240 to recover from their sluggish start to make the playoffs.

Also, both the Blue Jackets and Senators are expected to be far better after making significant acquisitions in the off-season.

To his credit, the Blue Jackets' major splash Johnny Gaudreau leads the team with 15 points (six goals, nine assists).

But, despite his production, they have struggled to put wins on the board and to add to their misery, they have now lost top defenceman Zach Werenski for the season.

For the Senators, their big-name signings Claude Giroux (eight goals, 10 assists) and Alex DeBrincat (five goals, nine assists) have started fairly well and the team's underlying numbers are much better than their position suggests, but inconsistency has plagued them and makes them +500 to reach the playoffs.

The young Sabres began the season well but after losing eight straight have fallen to seventh in the Atlantic Division and are now +425 to end their NHL record 11-year playoff drought.

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Weighing up blockbuster trade

The Florida Panthers and Calgary Flames completed the blockbuster trade of the off-season with forward Matthew Tkachuk refusing to sign a new contract with Calgary and being traded to Florida in exchange for winger Jonathan Huberdeau and defenceman Mackenzie Weegar.

Helped by a 104-point season from Tkachuk, the Flames won the Pacific Division last season while the Panthers won the Presidents' Trophy as the NHL's best regular season team with Huberdeau (115 points) and Weegar (44 points) each enjoying career-best years.

Tkachuk has enjoyed the best start of the three scoring 24 points (seven goals, 17 assists) in 16 games, while Huberdeau has two goals, six assists in 14 games and Weegar four assists in 17 games.

Each team has taken time to adjust to their new identity, however, with the Panthers, priced at +1700 to win the Stanley Cup, going 9-7-2 and +1600 Calgary Flames 8-7-2 with each seeking more consistency.

Oilers stars let down by goals against

Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid leads the NHL with 34 points and 16 goals, while teammate Leon Draisaitl sits second for points (30) and assists (20).

Their offensive contribution has been the main reason the Oilers have managed to remain high up the Pacific Division, currently fourth with a 10-8-0 record.

While the Oilers have scored the seventh most goals in the NHL (64) only seven teams have conceded more and to meet their +1700 odds to win the Stanley Cup, they will need to tighten up and new goalie Jack Campbell improve on his .873 save percentage and 4.27 GAA.

New coach bounce

Under new coaches, the Dallas Stars (11-5-2), Winnipeg Jets (10-5-1) and New York Islanders (11-8-0), who all missed out on the playoffs last season have started the season strongly.

The Stars hired Peter DeBoer after he was fired by Vegas, and he replaced Rick Bowness who ended up signing with the Jets.

Lane Lambert was promoted by the Islanders from the position of assistant and all three have impressed in their new positions.

Key to their success has been establishing a far better defensive system, and each enjoying world-class goaltending.

Led by Connor Hellebuyck, who is +1000 to win the Vezina Trophy as netminder of the year, the Jets have conceded the second least goals in the NHL (38 in 16 games).

The Stars with Jake Oettinger, available at +550 to win the Vezina, the seventh fewest (49) and the Islanders with +650 Ilya Sorokin the 11th least (53).

The Stars are -500 to make the playoffs and +210 to remain in top spot of the Central Division while the Jets and Islanders are both -140 to clinch a post-season place.

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