Stanley Cup predictions 2024: Using AI to pick Oilers vs. Panthers champion, Conn Smythe winner

Everyone in the hockey world is giving out their prediction for the 2024 Stanley Cup Final. The matchup between the Oilers and the Panthers is incredibly close given how talented both clubs are. 

It’s not easy trying to correctly guess the outcome of the NHL playoffs. I chose the Lightning over the Panthers in the first round in my predictions before the start of the postseason — look how that turned out. 

With just two teams left in the hunt for the Stanley Cup, I attempted again to pick the champion for this year’s NHL season in my latest predictions for Sporting News. However, I’m going to take it a step further in this exercise. 

As AI becomes more and more prevalent in today’s society, it gives people unprecedented access to technology. The system can spit out information at a rapid pace, although due to certain errors with AI, computers won’t be taking over anytime soon.

So, I tried a fun project by asking AI what it thought of the 2024 Stanley Cup Final. Using Meta AI, it gave out predictions for the Stanley Cup winner this year, the Conn Smythe recipient as playoff MVP, and even the champion for the 2025 season. 

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Stanley Cup predictions 2024

Who will win the Stanley Cup Final

Before diving into the details of the AI’s responses, it’s important to note that while artificial intelligence is incredibly effective, it is not 100-percent foolproof.

For example, it stated that the Panthers played at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla., which is home to the Lightning. Florida plays at the Amerant Bank Arena in Sunrise, which is on the other side of the state. It also gave out goal scorers for each game in its simulation, and depth scoring simply is not a thing according to AI. 

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With that said, when I asked Meta AI who would win the 2024 Stanley Cup Final, it said that the Oilers would take the championship 4-2 over the Panthers. 

In the game-by-game breakdown, it had Edmonton winning Game 1 in overtime, Florida evening the series in Game 2, Edmonton winning both Games 3 and 4 at home, Florida staying alive with a victory in Game 5, and the Oilers earning a championship on home ice in Game 6. 

I also probed the AI further and asked to give reasons why it chose the Oilers. It rightfully pointed out the superstar duo on offense with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, along with the deadly power play that Edmonton possesses. It also correctly stated that “the team’s defense has improved, and they have a strong penalty kill,” which was not necessarily the case in years past. 

One of the most intriguing points from the AI is about the Oilers’ goaltending. It called Stuart Skinner’s play in the playoffs “solid,”which is a fair assessment. Skinner has put together a couple of strong performances, but he also was benched at one point in the postseason. Sergei Bobrovsky’s numbers with the Panthers are better across the board than Skinner’s with the Oilers, so I don’t think it’s a hot take that Florida has the edge in net. 

The final reason from the AI was that the Oilers “have already beaten tough opponents, like the Dallas Stars.” It’s true, but Edmonton’s path has arguably been easier than Florida’s. That’s no knock against the Kings, Canucks, or Stars, but the Panthers had to wipe out the Lightning, Bruins, and Rangers en route to the final series. Going against goaltenders Andrei Vasilevskiy, Jeremy Swayman, and Igor Shesterkin all in a row is no small task. 

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Who will win the Conn Smythe?

I also asked the AI who would take home the Conn Smythe for playoff MVP. Its answer was quite predictable, especially with the Oilers also winning in its simulation — Connor McDavid. 

The Edmonton captain is one of the favorites for playoff MVP entering the series, as he leads all skaters in the playoffs in points (31) and assists (26). In AI’s simulated run of the final series, it had McDavid scoring at least one goal in all six games, which is a sure-fire way to secure your spot as the most valuable player. 

The AI called out McDavid’s “goal-scoring prowess,” stating that he has “also shown his ability to score crucial goals, including game-winners and overtime winners.” That’s not totally true for the 2024 playoffs considering he has just five tallies, only one game-winner, and no OT goals, but let’s face it — McDavid has a history of coming through in clutch moments for the Oil. The argument is valid. 

It also pointed to McDavid’s consistency, which is an accurate assessment. In the 2024 postseason, he has been held off the score sheet just four times in 18 games, and he’s yet to go back-to-back contests with a point. 

Who will make it to next year’s Stanley Cup Final? 

In addition to this year’s champion, I also asked the AI to give out its prediction for next year, and it’s a doozy. 

Meta AI predicted that the Golden Knights would beat the Maple Leafs 4-3 in the 2025 Stanley Cup Final. It also had Vegas center Jack Eichel winning the Conn Smythe.

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“While the Toronto Maple Leafs put up a strong fight, the Golden Knights’ overall team strength, resilience, and determination ultimately led them to their first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history.” (More on that in a minute.)

The AI pointed out the Golden Knights’ “balanced scoring”, “defensive solidity,” and “coaching and team chemistry” as the main factors for its prediction. 

An appearance by the Maple Leafs in the Stanley Cup Final would be one that’s a long time coming. Toronto has not played in the final series since 1967, which is the last time the club won the Stanley Cup. It would make for one heck of a first season for new Leafs head coach Craig Berube. 

The one big thing to point out is that in the AI’s explanation, it said that the 2025 title would be the Golden Knights’ first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history. Of course, that’s not true, as Vegas won the 2023 Stanley Cup over Florida just last year. 

So, once again, while the AI may be smart, it’s not taking anybody’s job just yet. 

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