Looking at the top Conn Smythe Trophy candidates heading into the Stanley Cup Final

Photo credit:Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Ryley Delaney
1 month ago
With two teams remaining in the Stanley Cup playoffs, just a handful of Conn Smythe Trophy candidates remain.
In this article, we’ll look at three candidates from both the Edmonton Oilers and the Florida Panthers and determine which player on either side has the best odds to win.
While the Conn Smythe Trophy has been awarded to a player on the losing team five times, it hasn’t happened since Mighty Ducks of Anaheim netminder Jean-Sébastien Giguère won it in the 2003 postseason despite losing to the New Jersey Devils in seven games. There’s only been one Conn Smythe winner on a losing team who wasn’t a goaltender, as Reggie Leach won in 1976 with the Philadelphia Flyers.
With that being said, this season’s Conn Smythe Trophy will very likely be awarded to a player on the winning team. Let’s take a look at who could win!

May 22, 2024; New York, New York, USA; Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (72) plays the puck against the New York Rangers during the third period of game one of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Sergei Bobrovsky

It wasn’t too long ago we were talking about how two-time Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky’s record-setting contract for a netminder was worrisome after signing with the Panthers. In his first four seasons with the Panthers, he had a .905 save percentage and a 2.97 goals-against average, not great for a netminder making $10 million a season.
However, he had a .915 save percentage in 19 games, along with a 12-6-0 record during the 2023 postseason, helping lead the Panthers back to their first Stanley Cup Finals since 1996. His strong play continued in the 2023-24 season, where he had a .915 save percentage and a 2.37 goals-against average in 58 games.
Bobrovsky’s strong play has continued this postseason. He has a .908 save percentage and a 2.20 goals-against average in 17 games, along with a shutout. Since the end of the first round, Bobrovsky has a .914 save percentage and an 8-4-0 record in 12 games.
Of the two netminders in this series, he has a better chance than Stuart Skinner, but he’d really have to steal this series to be in consideration.

Matthew Tkachuk

The former Calgary Flame was traded before the start of the 2022-23 season after the Flames lost in five games to the Oilers in the second round of the 2022 postseason.
Nicknamed “The Rat King,” Tkachuk scored 40 goals and 109 points in 79 Panthers games last season, along with 11 goals and 24 points in 20 postseason games. Had the Panthers won the Stanley Cup in 2023, there was a good chance he would’ve been named the Conn Smythe winner.
Tkachuk tailed off in the regular season, scoring 26 goals and 88 points in 80 games, and his goal-scoring rate has been down, only five in 17 games. However, he’s been Florida’s best forward throughout the postseason, and if they win (especially if he has a good performance), he may well win his first Conn Smythe.

Carter Verhaeghe

The Florida Panthers have a well-balanced attack, with four players scoring 10 or more points and 12 scoring five or more points. For context, the Oilers have five players with 10 or more points (they all have 18 or more, in reality) but just eight players with five or more points.
That is to say that while Edmonton’s Conn Smythe favourites are pretty easy, the same cannot be said for the Panthers. For the third and final potential candidate, we’ll look at Carter Verhaeghe, the team’s leading scorer.
Nine postseason goals is nothing to laugh at. While Zach Hyman leads by a large margin of 14 goals, Verhaeghe is tied for fourth and will surely move into at least third place in this series, considering Wyatt Johnston’s 10 goals are passable. Overall, the 28-year-old has nine goals and 17 points, tied for second in team scoring.
If Verhaeghe can have a monster series, there is a chance he could win the Conn Smythe.

May 18, 2024; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defensemen Evan Bouchard (2) celebrates after scoring a goal against the Vancouver Canucks during the second period against the Vancouver Canucks in game six of the second round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place.

Evan Bouchard

Right before our eyes this postseason, we’ve seen a very good offensive defenceman bloom into one of the best defencemen in the league, period.
Evan Bouchard had a terrific 2023-24 season, scoring a career-high 18 goals and 82 points in 81 games, but this postseason has been even better for the 24-year-old. With six goals and 27 points in 18 games, he leads all defencemen and points and is tied for goals with the recently eliminated Miro Heiskanen.
Do you think it’s just power play goals? Nope, his five even-strength goals lead the league, as do his 15 even-strength points. Not just that, but his 1.5 points per game is the best for any defencemen in the 2024 postseason, beating out Victor Hedman’s 1.4 points per game and Cale Makar’s 1.36 points per game.
Okay, that’s all offence, and he’s a defenceman, so how does he do defensively? Although +/- is pretty moot at this point, Bouchard’s +14 doesn’t just lead all defencemen in +/-, but it’s the best in the league.
At five on five, Bouchard has played 353:07 minutes and has the highest GF% of 69.44 for defencemen with more than a series played. The next closest player is Alex Petrovic, who played third-pairing minutes for Dallas and had a 66.7 GF%. 
It is important to note that Petrovic only played 62 minutes and was on the ice for two goals for and one against. For context, Bouchard has been on the ice for 11 five on five goals against but 25 five on five goals for. The next best is his defence partner, Mattias Ekholm, who was on the ice for 19 goals. The next best player was Thomas Harley, who was on the ice for 16 Dallas goals.
In reality, Evan Bouchard should be the front-runner for the Conn Smythe trophy due to his play on both ends of the ice, but even if he doesn’t win it, how great is it to see one of the best defensemen in the league develop right before our eyes?

Leon Draisaitl

During the regular season, a common talking point has been about “is Leon Draisaitl considered the second best player in the league?” And it’s fair… in the regular season when he scored 41 goals and 106 points in 81 games.
Then the postseason comes around. While it doesn’t matter in regards to this season’s Conn Smythe, Draisaitl has 41 goals and 105 points in 67 postseason games, which gives him 1.57 points per game. That is the fourth-highest PPG in history, behind three players on the NHL Mount Rushmore, Connor McDavid (1.58), Mario Lemieux (1.61), and Wayne Gretzky (1.84)
So far in the 2024 playoffs, Draisaitl has 10 goals and 28 points in 18 games, just four points shy of matching his career-high in a postseason run of 32 in 2022 (done in 16 games with a high-ankle sprain).
Speaking of McDavid…

Connor McDavid

If there’s one player who could win the Conn Smythe despite his team losing in the Stanley Cup Finals, it’d be Connor McDavid.
So far this postseason, McDavid has five goals and 26 assists (19 primary) for 31 points, which is tied for the 26th most points in a postseason. Since the turn of the millennium, the highest total of points in a postseason run was 36 by Evgeni Malkin in the 2008-09 postseason. Since 2010, that record has been held by Nikita Kucherov with 34 in 2019-20 in 25 games played.
I don’t see how McDavid wouldn’t surpass both of those players in the next four games, but imagine if this series goes to seven games? Wayne Gretzkey’s record of 47 points in 18 games during the 1985 postseason won’t be broken anytime soon, but 40 points is certainly in reach if this series goes the distance. Only two players have achieved that in four different postseasons: Gretzky three times and Mario Lemieux once.
It feels fitting that McDavid winds up with a Conn Smythe in his career, but there are quite a few players who have had incredible runs this postseason, so it won’t be an easy choice. 

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