If you’re taking home the Conn Smythe Trophy, you had yourself a nice little spring.
This season, though, winning the Conn Smythe means you had yourself a nice little summer — and stayed healthy in the process.
With the Stanley Cup playoffs kicking into gear after the league’s four-month pause, we’re looking at a dash to the Cup unlike any other in the sport’s history. Things will look a little different this postseason and not just because of the bubble.
Instead of 16 teams vying for Lord Stanley’s chalice, we’ve got 24 teams in the mix this season with eight teams in each conference battling just to advance to the first round, while the top four seeds in each conference battle it out for seeding.
So we know how the Cup battle will be different, but what about the Conn Smythe? It opens up the field for the trophy even more, and now a heroic effort just to get into the actual playoffs could further improve a player’s case.
Here are some of the favorites (Bovada odds via OddsShark):
Andrei Vasilevskiy +1600
Tuukka Rask +1800
Nathan MacKinnon +1800
Nikita Kucherov +2000
Marc-Andre Fleury +2000
Philipp Grubauer +2000
Steven Stamkos +2500
Carter Hart +2800
Sidney Crosby +2800
David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron (each +3000)
Max Pacioretty +3500
Alex Ovechkin +4000
Connor McDavid +4000
Here are some of our best bets:
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning (+2500): The story is written for Stamkos to have a memorable playoff. His team was shocked in the first round a season ago despite having the most talented club in the field. Well, how about a little redemption this time around? Tampa Bay was a wagon again, and it obviously is looking to avenge last season’s result. Not only that, but Stamkos himself is also looking at a nice comeback story after a midseason injury looked to keep him out of the postseason, at least to start. He’s now healthy, and it certainly wouldn’t be surprising to see the sniper lead a deep playoff run for a Lightning team on a mission.
Mark Stone, Vegas Golden Knights (+3500): Stone hit the ground running for Vegas after a deadline deal landed him with the Golden Knights last season. The big forward totaled 11 points in 18 games after the trade, but his production went to another level in the playoffs. Unfortunately for Vegas, the Golden Knights were bounced in a seven-game first-round series, but Stone was a terror. He surpassed his regular-season point total with Vegas, scoring six goals and adding six assists in the seven-game loss to San Jose. The Golden Knights certainly are talented enough for a return to the Stanley Cup Final, and if Stone is producing at a clip even resembling last spring, he’ll be right in the running for the Conn Smythe at a very good price.
Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins (+3000): Quick, which player led the NHL in playoff points last season? Since we’re talking about him in this blurb, obviously it was Marchand. Maybe it’s his reputation or maybe it’s because he’s not the most talented player on his own line — which is arguably the best in hockey — but it feels like Marchand might be a little underrated at this point in his career. But Marchand has 187 points in 149 regular-seasons games over the last two seasons. He had 23 points in 24 postseason games a year ago. The year before, he had 17 in 12. Marchand piles up points and often does it at the most important time. He plays both ways, kills penalties and has a knack for scoring big goals. He also plays on arguably the best team in the sport. That’s a winning combination for a Conn Smythe winner.
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers (+4000): He’s the best player in the sport, and you can get him at 40-to-1. Pretty simple.
Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs (+5000): Gotta have a goalie somewhere, right? We don’t love Andersen, in large part because the Leafs’ defensive corps is, well, a bit of a mess. But maybe that also helps his case? If Andersen has to bail out the Leafs for two months, then he’ll deserve all the credit he’ll get. Admittedly, expecting a Leafs goalie to carry a team to postseason glory is borderline laughable. But in a season as weird as this one, it’s so crazy it just might make sense.