Each year, the Conn Smythe Trophy is awarded to the playoff MVP at the conclusion of the NHL’s Stanley Cup playoffs. While the Stanley Cup Finals have yet to begin, here’s a quick look at the top five candidates from each of the two teams that will go head-to-head in a best of seven series, starting tomorrow.
Los Angeles Kings
5. Drew Doughty
– 10 points in 14 games, and a +10 rating, tied for best amongst all NHL playoff defensemen this postseason (tied with New Jersey Devil Bryce Salvador).
4. Dwight King
– Yes, Dwight King. Not only does his name perfectly fit the team he plays for, but he’s emerged as the scoring depth Los Angeles so sorely lacked in the regular season. King has five goals through the first three rounds of the NHL postseason, good for third best on the team.
3. Anze Kopitar
– Second best on the team with 15 points (six goals, nine assists), and tied for the NHL playoff lead with teammate Dustin Brown in plus/minus rating with a +13. He’s also tagged up two shorthanded goals so far in the playoffs.
2. Jonathan Quick
– An NHL-playoff best 12 wins, 1.54 GAA and .946 save percentage. He may not win the Conn Smythe, but he may be a lock for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goaltender.
1. Dustin Brown
– Seven goals and nine assists for 16 points in 14 games to lead the Kings, including two short-handed tallies and three game-winning goals. His smash-mouth style of hockey has set the tone for the entire Los Angeles team, and he’s tied with Kopitar for the NHL playoff lead in +/- with a +13 rating. Fun fact: both he and Zach Parise are from the United States, making this the first Stanley Cup Final in NHL history with both teams being captained by Americans.
New Jersey Devils
5. Travis Zajac
-After almost missing the entire season, Zajac has come on strong in the playoffs to give New Jersey the reliable second-line center they so desperately needed. He’s third on the team with 12 points, and has two game-winning goals.
4. Adam Henrique
– 11 points in 18 games; two game-winning goals, including the OT winner in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final to send New Jersey into the Stanley Cup Final. Not bad for a 22-year-old rookie. And oh yeah, he’s a team-best +9 so far in the postseason.
3. Martin Brodeur
– The Ageless Wonder. Even at 40 years of age, Brodeur has maintained top form while backstopped the Devils to their fifth Stanley Cup Final appearance in franchise history…all with Brodeur as the goalie. His numbers might not be as good as Quick’s but 12 wins, a .923 save percentage and a 2.04 GAA is nothing to turn one’s nose up at.
2. Zach Parise
– Seven goals and seven assists for 14 points in 18 games, second best on the team he captains. At only 27 years of age, he’s perfectly stepped into his role as captain in his first year bearing that honor for the Devils, leading with both his skilled offensive play and two-way game.
1. Ilya Kovalchuk
– He has the most points of anyone remaining in the playoffs (18), and has turned in an incredible offensive and forechecking performance to lead the Devils into their first Stanley Cup Final berth in nine years. He might not be worth $102 million, but he’s definitely given the Devils everything they hoped for when they brought him in as a free agent two years ago. Fun fact: the team New Jersey beat out in the Kovalchuk Sweepstakes? Los Angeles, who was also pushing hard to sign the Russian superstar back in 2010.