Hockey Betting Explained: Learn How to Bet on NHL Games

Learn about NHL moneyline, puck lines, Over/Unders, and more in this comprehensive hockey betting guide.

Betting Analyst
Apr 18, 2024 • 09:22 ET • 4 min read
Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid in NHL action.
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

Hockey betting makes one of the most exciting games on the planet that much more exhilarating. The fast-paced, physical play on NHL ice presents a massive menu of hockey odds and action every night. 

From the excitement of the regular season to the Stanley Cup Final, hockey gives bettors plenty of opportunities to make some bucks off pucks.

NHL betting lines explained

Like most team sports, hockey betting allows fans to pick which side they think will win the game. On top of that, bettors can wager on the total number of goals scored and numerous alternative odds markets for each game.

The most common hockey betting lines are the moneyline, puck line, and Over/Under goal total.

NHL moneylines ask bettors to pick the winner of the game. Based on the strength of the teams and other factors, oddsmakers calculate the implied probability of victory for both sides and set moneyline odds for each team.

NHL puck lines level the competition between two teams, with oddsmakers setting a handicap in goals. One team is the -1.5 puck line favorites – and has to win by more than 1.5 goals to cover the line – while the other will be pegged as the +1.5 puck line underdog – having to win outright or lose by less than 1.5 goals.

NHL Over/Under totals are the estimated total number of goals scored by both teams in a game. Bettors wager on whether the final score will go Over or Under that expected tally.

Moneyline: Pick the winner of an NHL game

Betting the moneyline is the most straightforward way to wager on hockey, with oddsmakers simply asking bettors to pick which side they think will win the game. Because not all matchups are equal, each team will be assigned a moneyline which reflects the implied probability of winning the game.

Sportsbooks often display moneylines in American odds (hundreds). The moneyline favorite will be indicated by a negative (-) value before its moneyline, while the underdog will have a positive value attached to its moneyline odds.

NHL Moneyline Example.

For example, the favorite to win the game — the Boston Bruins — has a moneyline of -175 which means for every $1 you wish to win, you need to risk $1.75 (bet $175 to win $100). The underdog — here, the Dallas Stars — has a moneyline of +155 which means for every $1 risked, you could win $1.55 (bet $100 to win $155).

NHL Moneyline calculator

Find out how much money you could win betting NHL moneylines using our easy odds converter and moneyline calculator.

Vig or juice: The cost of placing a bet

Some betting markets, such as puck line and Over/Unders, have a second set of odds associated with them. This is known as the vig or juice, and it’s how sportsbooks make their money off bettors. 

NHL Odds Example.

In the odds example above, oddsmakers have favored the Over and given it -125 juice. This means for a better to win $100 on the Over, they would need to risk $125. If a bettor wagered $100, taking the Under at +105, they would win $105 if the outcome of that game was under 5.5 goals.

Puck Line: Even the odds

The puck line is hockey’s version of the point spread, in which a certain number of goals are designated as a handicap between the two teams. Due to the low-scoring and routinely close contests in the NHL, the most common puck line is 1.5 goals, with the puck line favorite set at -1.5 and the puck line underdog at +1.5. However, you will find larger puck lines in more one-sided contests.

If a team is the puck line favorite (-1.5), it must win the game by two or more goals to cover the puck line. If a team is a puck line underdog (+1.5), it must win the game outright or lose by less than two goals to cover and win the puck line bet.

NHL Puck Line Example.

For example, the Bruins are the -1.5 puck line favorite in this game. If Boston wins by two or more goals, they would be the winning bet. The Stars are the puck line underdog at +1.5. The Stars would win the puck line bet if they win outright or lose by one goal.

Over/Under: Predicting the total combined score of NHL games

Over/Under betting in hockey is wagering on the total combined score of a hockey game. Oddsmakers set an expected total number of goals to be scored by both sides. Bettors can wager on whether the final score will go Over or Under that total.

Most NHL Over/Under totals are set between 5 and 6.5 goals depending on the offenses and defenses involved. 

Because hockey is a low-scoring game, goal totals don’t move as much as basketball or football Over/Unders. Instead, the juice or vig attached to both the Over and Under adjust.

NHL Over/Under Example.

For example, this game has an Over/Under of 5.5 goals. Bettors would pick one of the two outcomes (will the game result in Over or Under 5.5 combined goals) and place a bet on it based on the vig or juice. 

More ways to bet on hockey

The growth of NHL betting in North America and worldwide has created a considerable demand for hockey odds. Sportsbooks have met that with these alternative popular hockey bets.


NHL parlays allow you to wager a single amount across multiple hockey bets for a larger possible payout. However, all bets included in the parlay must win for the entire parlay to pay out. Even if four of the five bets in the parlay are correct, that single incorrect bet grades the parlay as a loss.

Parlays are popular with recreational bettors as the potential payouts are much higher than single-game betting but with a higher risk. For example, a winning parlay with three underdogs at +150 each would pay 3.375 times your wager (1.5 x 1.5 x 1.5 = 3.375).

Some sportsbooks allow same-game parlays or bet builders, where a bettor can add multiple bets (moneyline, total, player props, etc.) on a single game. Bettors could bet on the side, total, and many other player or team props to create a low-risk, high-reward bet. 

60-minute line

A 60-minute line, or three-way market, is a bet that doesn’t include overtime, so there are three possible outcomes: a visitor win, a home win, or a tie. If you’re looking to bet hockey ties, this is your market. 

Many other bettors will place bets on a 60-minute line to get a better price than the two-way moneyline. If the Leafs are -140 on the regular moneyline, they may pay a more reasonable -115 on the 60-minute (three-way) ML. Just remember: these bets do not include overtime.

Grand Salami

If you have trouble picking which Over or Under you want on the board, then maybe the Grand Salami is for you. The Grand Salami is a unique total bet that incorporates every game on the NHL slate for that day into a single bet. It works the same way as a single-game total but includes every game on the schedule, making every goal scored (or not scored) pivotal in cashing your bet.

Let’s say five games are being played, and the Grand Salami total has been set at 27.5 goals. Bettors will either choose the Over or the Under on that number. If the total number of goals scored in those five games is 27 or below, then the Under bet will cash, but the Over bettor will win if 28 or more goals are scored. The Grand Salami is not always available and sometimes difficult to find. Still, it’s an enjoyable wager that can last longer than other bets.

Live/In-Game Betting

Sometimes we’re late to get our bets in, or we may want to see how the beginning of the game goes before we throw down some money. For these instances, there is in-game betting, which is also known as microbetting. In-game betting allows bettors to place wagers after the game has begun.

Not every sportsbook offers live betting, but the ones that do offer it do it well. Bettors can find a variety of bets available during the match but sometimes at slightly worse odds. Live-betting is a great way to take advantage of situational occurrences throughout an NHL game, such as injuries, penalties, and goalie substitutions — looking at you, David Ayers. The best advice with in-game betting is to wait for breaks in play to place your wagers, as most online sportsbooks work on a delay which puts us at a slight disadvantage when betting. 

Prop bets

Hockey prop bets allow you to wager on specific aspects of a game, unrelated to the final score. NHL props include odds for NHL player props as well as events and happenings throughout a game.

Bettors can choose from a variety of player props that include goals, assists, points, power-play points, shots, hits, saves, and shutouts. Props are usually set up much like totals where a number is set, and we have to choose Over or Under that set total.

For example, Auston Matthews’ goal total is set at 0.5 and paying -120 for the Over and +100 for the Under. If we wager on the Over and he scores, we win our bet. If he fails to record a goal in the game, we will lose our Over 0.5 goal bet.


NHL futures odds are long-running markets that allow you to bet on overall results. NHL futures include odds to win the Stanley Cup, the Eastern or Western Conference winner, and teams’ final points totals. You can also find markets for individual player honors such as Hart Trophy odds, Calder Trophy odds, Vezina Trophy odds, and Rocket Richard Trophy odds. Future bets boast great odds at the beginning of the year but are available for most of the NHL season. Future bets have become one of the most popular ways to wager on the NHL and offer high returns. The odds favorite to win the Stanley Cup can be had at or around +450 before the regular season. Check out our Stanley Cup predictions to find out which team has the best shot of lifting Lord Stanley's hardware.


NHL derivative odds allow hockey bettors to wager on specific game segments, such as first-period goals, moneylines, or which team will lead after two periods. If simple side and total bets aren’t enough, derivative markets offer bettors a near-endless supply of unique markets. 

Want to bet on the team scoring first not to win? Derivatives. Expecting a goal in the final 10 minutes of the third period? Derivatives. Think both teams will score three goals or more? Derivative markets have us covered. 

These niche markets are a great alternative to moneyline, puck line, and total bets.

Hockey betting tips and strategies

NHL odds are on the board every night during the hockey season. With so many options, make sure you’re using the best NHL betting strategies with these valuable tips:

Matchups Matchups

You’ll want to start by measuring each team’s strengths and weaknesses and how those compare to their opponents.

For example, suppose a team plays physically but often finds itself in the penalty box. In that case, a matchup against one of the best power-play attacks could be damning. Or, a team with a thin blue line could get into trouble versus an opponent with a deep forward group.

Starting goalies are also vital when measuring NHL matchups. Goaltenders will get hot and cold during the schedule, so make sure to weigh in on recent results more heavily than their season-long stats. 

Remember NFL key numbers Injuries

Injuries play a massive role when betting on NHL odds. The grueling nature of the game and the wear and tear from demanding schedules will see players in and out of the lineup for short and long stints.

Hockey bettors will want to examine how an injured player will change a team’s dynamic and how much of its success depends on that missing piece.

For example, an injured offensive-minded defenseman could be critical to the special teams and take away a club’s edge with the man advantage. Or, losing a second-line winger could force a coach to juggle his forward corps and break up any chemistry with his regular scoring lines.

Public betting & consensus Line movement

Like betting on any sport, finding the most favorable odds is a critical part of the process. NHL odds are fluid and will react to results, injuries and action, with betting lines moving from their opening to the second before the puck drops. 

Tracking NHL line movement and knowing when to put your money down is an essential hockey betting strategy when you’re wagering on NHL action nightly.

Totals and their odds tend to go up throughout the day, so getting your total bets in early is usually advised. As for moneylines and puck lines, bettors should try to have two or more different sportsbooks where they can shop prices as lines move differently at other sites.

Betting trends Referees

Handicapping referees is an undervalued method of discovering an edge in the odds. NHL referees and linesmen all have their unique tendencies, especially when it comes to calling penalties.

Some refs will allow for more physical play, which gives an advantage to bigger, stronger teams that rely on the forecheck and dump-and-chase styles of play. Officials who are quicker with their whistles promote a more wide-open brand of hockey. Faster, finesse-oriented teams take advantage of this, and it can produce higher-scoring finishes.

Recognizing the referees’ tendencies and monitoring the nightly officiating assignments is a sharp way to get the edge over the NHL oddsmakers.

Weather Trends

NHL betting trends can help point you in the direction of value. Long-standing trends can be misleading as teams, players, and coaches change season to season. But season-focused trends and recent trending results – especially those with a narrative or clear explanation – can be very profitable.

Hockey has a busier schedule, with teams in action three or four times a week. Those trends will carry over from game to game more often than trends for football, which sees a week between contests.

League trends are important to pay attention to, but following team trends is also a profitable strategy. Teams play differently at home and on the road, which extends to their special teams. This can have massive effects on totals and outcomes. Knowing how specific teams play on short rest is another trend that many follow.

Injuries Situational spot bets

Home and away splits, as well as recent schedule demands, will impact results, too. Be mindful of how differently a team can play in specific venues or at the end of a long road trip or extended break.  Hockey teams can fall into “lookahead” (looking past a weaker opponent and focusing more on an upcoming marquee matchup) and “letdown” (a loss immediately following a notable victory) spots during the season.

Looking at a team’s weekly or monthly schedule in advance can help us find situational spot bets ahead of time. Some other situational spot bets include: teams playing a fourth game in six nights, the backend of a back-to-back is a travel game, teams coming off big wins only to play an underdog the next match, and getaway games (the last game of a long road trip). These are just a few spot bets that every bettor should keep an eye out for during the season.

How to make a bet on a hockey game


Research available games on our scores and matchups page

Finding an edge in a matchup isn’t an easy thing to do with a busy NHL schedule, but using the Covers’ NHL scores and matchups page is a great place to start. It provides all the betting info you need, such as line movement, injury updates, trends, and more. Getting all your betting tools in one place is a game-changer.


Find the best NHL odds using our odds comparison tool

Shopping around for the best prices can make a big difference in your returns in the long run. Head over to the Covers’ NHL odds page and get up-to-date prices and totals from a vast collection of the best online sportsbooks in your region. It only takes a minute to find the best prices on the board and make smarter NHL bets.

Another great use of the Covers’ NHL odds comparison tool is seeing how totals are moving across the betting landscape. Let’s say you're interested in throwing down some money on a game that currently has a total of six. With a quick look at the odds page, you can see that some books have moved the total to 6.5, so finding where to get still the six is hugely advantageous.


Log in/Sign up for a sportsbook in your area 

Finding a good book is just as important as making a smart bet. Do some research and find the best hockey betting sites before registering. Look at all the betting markets the sportsbooks offer as well as sign-up and in-game bonuses. Don’t forget to look into withdrawal processes and times, too. Once you’ve found a book that matches your needs as a bettor, simply register and log in, and you’re ready to bet on the NHL.


Make your bet

Once you’ve logged in, find the NHL tab (usually on the left column). Clicking here should open the lines for the day’s NHL slate. Next, click on the bet you want to make and confirm that the wager is correct in the bet slip — which is usually on the right column of the page. The bet slip will tell you the wager and the odds and give you a space to enter your wager amount, showing your potential payout if the bet wins. Once everything looks good, input your wager amount and hit the confirm bet button. Look to find your open bet in a “my bets” or “open bets” tab to ensure the book accepts the bet.

Today's NHL odds

Here are the latest NHL odds for the most significant upcoming matchups.

Ready to bet on hockey?

If you think you’re ready to start betting on hockey, you can try your luck at one of Covers’ free-to-play contests for the chance to win cash and prizes, or you can start placing real-money NHL bets at trusted sportsbooks.

Free NHL betting contest

Want to try before you buy? Our King of Covers NHL contest lets you make free hockey bets without depositing your money at a sportsbook. Bet the moneyline and Over/Unders throughout the 2023-24 NHL season for the chance to win cash and prizes.

Best hockey betting sites

Covers’ team of industry experts has thoroughly researched the many online sportsbooks out there so that you don’t have to. Using the Covers' BetSmart System™, we've identified the best hockey sportsbooks in your area so that you can be sure you're playing at a trusted and respected betting site.

NHL betting forum

Want to learn more about NHL betting and meet a large, knowledgeable community? Check out Covers’ NHL betting forum to get free NHL picks, ask questions, and learn from experienced sports bettors.

There are many online sportsbooks where you can bet on the NHL. Check our betting site reviews for the best legal online sportsbook options in your region.

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