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4 leading candidates for NHL Conn Smythe Trophy, including Sergei Bobrovsky

Now that only four teams remain in the 2023 Stanley Cup playoffs, it is time to discuss the top candidates for the Conn Smythe Trophy. Although many fans and experts would love to choose the winner, only the Professional Hockey Writers Association members are eligible to cast a vote. 

Furthermore, a handful of favorites are no longer in the running, so the list of potential winners will come from one of the final four teams battling it out in the conference finals. Depending on who advances to the Stanley Cup Final between the Carolina Hurricanes, the Florida Panthers, the Dallas Stars, and the Vegas Golden Knights, someone will go down in history as this year’s most valuable playoff hero.

What is the Conn Smythe Trophy?

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In 1975, the NHL created the Conn Smythe Trophy, an award handed out to the most valuable player in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Since its inception, there have been 54 winners by 47 different players.

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Who are the leading candidates for this year’s playoff MVP? 

Frederik Andersen – Carolina Hurricanes

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At the beginning of their postseason run, the Hurricanes employed Antti Raanta as their starter, producing a 3-2 record, a 2.59 goals-against average (GAA), and a .906 save percentage (SV%) through the first five games. Eventually, Frederik Andersen returned from an injury and has held down the starter’s job ever since.

During his first contest, Game 6 against the New York Islanders, he allowed a single goal while making 25 saves in the clinching finale. Furthermore, he had only one bad game against the New Jersey Devils in the next series, an opponent the Hurricanes eliminated in five games. Thus far, he’s ranked among the top three goalies in GAA and SV% and will look to improve his numbers in the next round.

Related: 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Ranking the top five goalies

Sergei Bobrovsky – Florida Panthers

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Like the Hurricanes, the Panthers rolled into the playoffs with Alex Lyon as their starter. Unfortunately, he could not contain the Boston Bruins, and Florida fell behind 2-1 in the series. Therefore, head coach Paul Maurice called upon two-time Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky to save the season.

Even though the Panthers lost his first start in Game 4, they fought off elimination in three straight contests, eventually dispatching the greatest regular season team of all time (Bruins) in Game 7. Immediately after, they pushed the Toronto Maple Leafs to the brink in just three games, finishing off another Eastern Conference powerhouse in five. 

Since taking the reigns of the Panthers crease, Bobrovsky is 8-2 with a .927 SV% and 2.63 GAA. Ultimately, without switching netminders, the Panthers wouldn’t be just a few wins away from the Stanley Cup Final. 

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Jack Eichel – Vegas Golden Knights

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Jack Eichel was the second overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, one spot behind Connor McDavid. After a trade from the Buffalo Sabres to the Golden Knights in 2021, these two former top prospects finally met in a playoff series. 

Although McDavid is still among the leaders in playoff scoring, while outscoring Eichel 10-9 in the series, the Golden Knights were able to shut down the Oilers’ impressive offensive attack and eliminate their northern rivals in six games. 

Currently, Eichel leads his team in scoring and is the third-highest scorer left in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Ultimately, his effort in the second round proved he could be a big-time player, something many wondered would be possible after a lengthy injury almost derailed his career. If the Golden Knights advance and win the Stanley Cup, Eichel will be a significant part of their success. 

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Roope Hintz – Dallas Stars

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After the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the leading scorer was not McDavid or Leon Draisaitl, but Dallas Stars’ forward Roope Hintz, who collected 11 points in six games against the Minnesota Wild. Although he was quiet at the beginning of the series with the Seattle Kraken, he found his scoring touch again and had six points in the final four games, three of them victories. 

Interestingly, in a tightly contested Game 7, the Stars and Kraken remained deadlocked with five minutes left in the second period when Hintz opened up the scoring, leading to a 2-1 victory. Although many other players like Joe Pavelski, Jamie Benn, and Jason Robertson had good series, Hintz came through when the team needed him, just like he did in the first round. 

Even though the team can win games and advance without Hintz contributing, he is a significant reason the team is in the final four and will remain an impact player with a chance to finish as the leading scorer in this year’s playoffs.  

Related: These NHL Hart Trophy winners were never able to win a Stanley Cup

Which player has won the most Conn Smythe Trophies?

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Hockey Hall of Famer Patrick Roy is the only player in league history to win the Conn Smythe Trophy on three occasions. As a rookie in 1986, he led the Montreal Canadiens to a Stanley Cup title, repeating the feat in 1993. Then, as a member of the Colorado Avalanche, he helped the club to their second title in 2001, winning the Conn Smythe for the third time.

Has a player from a losing team ever won the Conn Smythe? 

On five occasions, the NHL has awarded the Conn Smythe to a player on the losing team in the Stanley Cup Final. Those players include four goalies, Roger Crozier (1966), Glenn Hall (1968), Ron Hextall (1987), and Jean-Sebastien Giguere (2003). Meanwhile, only one skater was voted MVP on a losing team, Reggie Leach, in 1976.

Which position usually wins the Conn Smythe?

Historically, there have been 19 centers who have claimed the Conn Smythe Trophy, with goalies in a close second with 17 wins. Additionally, 12 defensemen and only nine wingers were awarded the award at the end of the playoffs.

Related: NHL teams with the best and worst records in Game 7

Last 10 Conn Smythe Trophy Winners

  • 2022 – Cale Makar (D) Colorado Avalanche
  • 2021 – Andrei Vasilevskiy (G) Tampa Bay Lightning
  • 2020 – Victor Hedman (D) Tampa Bay Lightning
  • 2019 – Ryan O’Reilly (C) St. Louis Blues
  • 2018 – Alexander Ovechkin (LW) Washington Capitals
  • 2017 – Sidney Crosby (C) Pittsburgh Penguins
  • 2016 – Sidney Crosby (C) Pittsburgh Penguins
  • 2015 – Duncan Keith (D) Chicago Blackhawks
  • 2014 – Justin Williams (RW) Los Angeles Kings
  • 2013 – Patrick Kane (RW) Chicago Blackhawks

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