Now that we’re down to four teams in the Stanley Cup playoffs, it’s time to look at who the potential Conn Smythe Trophy winner might be. The Conn Smythe Trophy is awarded at the end of the Stanley Cup Final to the player who is deemed the most valuable to his team during the playoffs by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.
Going into a little history of the trophy, it has always been awarded to a player whose team has at least made it to the Finals. Since it was first introduced in 1964, only five players have won the award and played for the losing team: Roger Crozier of the Detroit Red Wings (1966), Glenn Hall of the St. Louis Blues (1968), Reggie Leach of the Philadelphia Flyers (1976), Ron Hextall of the Philadelphia Flyers (1987), and Jean-Sebastien Giguere of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (2003).
There are great options across all four current Cup contenders. For the Washington Capitals, the obvious potential winners could be Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Braden Holtby. Ovechkin and Kuznetsov are toe to toe when it comes to scoring, tied in both total playoff points (21) and game-winning goals (1). Now that the Penguins and Bruins have been eliminated, it’s likely they’ll be taking over as sole leaders soon enough.
Holtby didn’t see much action in the regular season, but after the Capitals couldn’t rely on Grubauer to be their starter, Holtby was back in the game. He has a .917 save percentage and, while that may seem average, he’s made some remarkable saves to keep his team not only in a game but also in the playoffs.
For the Tampa Bay Lightning, Nikita Kucherov is the most obvious choice for Conn Smythe winner. He’s leading the team with 16 points and leading the league in game winning goals with 3. He’s no doubt been the most valuable player for the Lightning this playoffs. Besides Kucherov, there is an argument for Victor Hedman or Andrei Vasilevskiy but they’ll have to do a lot more the next few games to outshine Kucherov.
The Winnipeg Jets, like the Capitals, have a few potential winners. Forward Mark Scheifele has 20 points throughout the playoffs, making him tied with a few others for second overall and, incredible enough, 14 of those 20 points were goals. He has one game-winning goal while teammate Paul Stastny has 15 points and is tied with Kucherov in game-winning goals (3). Captain Blake Wheeler and goalie Connor Hellebuyck are honorable mentions.
Lastly, should the Vegas Golden Knights win the Stanley Cup, the Conn Smythe winner will likely be Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury leads all playoff goalies with a remarkable .945 save percentage. Fleury hasn’t had it easy; he’s faced 473 shots, second only to Hellebuyck’s 479.
Regardless of who wins the Stanley Cup, the options for the Conn Smythe winner will be abundant for two teams and fairly obvious for the other two. It’ll be interesting to see where the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association’s votes go when the finals play out.