Most of Daniel Negreanu's life has been processing odds and playing a good hand. That's how he became the youngest player ever to win a World Series of Poker bracelet at the age of 23 and how he went on to win five more in his career.
The Toronto native also gambles on hockey, a sport he's a huge fan of. During the NHL pause, which began on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he's been pressing his luck on golf.
Negreanu, a member of the "Founding 50" who helped bring the Golden Knights to Vegas, knows that betting on the NHL's 24-team postseason — which begins on Aug. 1 — involving eight teams that normally wouldn't have made the cut and occurring four-plus months after pausing to wait out a pandemic that's still present in two hub cities could be free-for-all.
"Well there's definitely certain things you want to look at, right, and you have to decide for yourself," Negreanu told NBC Sports Chicago over the phone while helping promote PokerGO®, a subscription streaming service.
"Has the [pause] been better for a young team or is it better for an older veteran team? There's a lot of different variables in terms of who this benefits. There's a lot of different theories.
"A lot of people might feel like the older veterans are more rested, so that helps them. Then the other side of the coin is are they going to be able to get into game shape quick enough? Where the younger guys are likely more in shape.
"It'll be interesting to see how people approach that, but it is a huge wild card, especially because now you have teams that were really not going to make the playoffs. Chicago was not going to make the playoffs, but now they have a chance and they have a reasonable chance against a team like Edmonton if they can put it together. So, new hope for a lot of teams and it should be fun. One thing you can guarantee [in the tournament] is there will be upsets and we just don't know which ones those will be yet."
What does Negreanu think of the Hawks' chances and how they match up with the Oilers?
"So, the Blackhawks are an interesting team," he said. "Obviously their defense has aged, a guy like Brent Seabrook is in the twilight of his career. They do have of course some of those core pieces from the championship runs in (Jonathan) Toews and (Patrick) Kane and they're quickly, actually, turning around with some [young players] like (Alex) DeBrincat and Dominik Kubalik, who's... he's not going to win 'Rookie of the Year' but he's one of the final three candidates. And then, the No. 3 pick overall is looking like a steal in Kirby Dach.
"What Chicago appears to be doing is somewhat hanging on to the past but while doing that, breaking towards the future. Obviously goaltending is going to be the biggest issue. They added (Malcolm) Subban, who came from Vegas. That's a downgrade from when they had Robin Lehner and Corey Crawford. Robin Lehner is a top goalie.
"So my concern for Chicago is I just don't think they are defensively strong enough. You added some pieces that helped you in one area but I just think there's glaring holes on defense.
"They could beat a team like Edmonton, especially if someone like McDavid or Draisaitl gets hurt, but to beat a team like St. Louis or Boston or even Vegas... they never beat Vegas, hardly. So I don't see a realistic chance of Chicago getting all the way through."
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