The Avalanche can smell victory. With Game 5 on Friday night, Colorado is just one win away from defeating Tampa Bay in the Stanley Cup Final and hoisting hockey’s most coveted trophy.
Nazem Kadri’s overtime winner in Game 4 has pushed the Lightning to the brink of elimination, as the Avalanche own a 3-1 series lead. It’s been a sensational run in the playoffs so far, and the Avalanche have the chance to cap it off in Denver.
If the Avs pull out a win, not only will the Stanley Cup be handed out, but so will the Conn Smythe Trophy rewarding the NHL playoff MVP. There have been a number of players shining bright during this postseason, but only one player will be given the honor.
Who will be the recipient of the Conn Smythe Trophy for the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs? The Sporting News breaks down the three leading candidates for the Avalanche ahead of tonight’s possible series-ending contest.
Who should win the 2022 Conn Smythe Trophy?
Odds provided by Sports Interaction
Cale Makar (-833)
Coming off a Norris Trophy-winning regular season, Makar has been dominant in the 2022 postseason.
The defensive sensation has slowed down a bit after a fast start where he recorded 10 points in four games during the first round. But he’s still producing at an extremely high level on the back end for Colorado.
Makar leads the team in points with 27, which is also the fourth-highest point total by a defenseman in a single postseason. Only Paul Coffey, Brian Leetch and Al MacInnis have recorded higher point totals in NHL history in one playoff.
According to the odds, he’s the heavy favorite to win the Conn Smythe. If he were to win, along with the Avs hoisting the Cup, Makar would have a Calder Trophy, a Norris, a Stanley Cup and a Conn Smythe at just 23 years old.
Nathan MacKinnon (+358)
The top center for the Avalanche has been a workhorse for the team, at times willing his bunch almost single-handedly to try and win games. Look no further than Game 5 against the Blues when he had a hat trick and an assist, contributing to all four goals in the 5-4 OT loss.
The 26-year-old leads the team with 12 goals and is two goals shy of overtaking Oilers’ forward Evander Kane for the playoff lead. He had 11 coming into the series against the Lightning and finally was able to get his first tally of the finals in Game 4.
He has not hesitated to pull the trigger at all this postseason. MacKinnon enters play on Friday with 104 shots on goal. That’s 35 more than the next closest players, Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman, who have 69. In 18 playoff games, MacKinnon has recorded at least two shots on goal in every one and had at least four in 14 of those games. Only Henrik Zetterberg in 2008 (116) has more shots on goal in one postseason than MacKinnon.
Had MacKinnon continued his goal-scoring pace, there’s a chance he could have caught Makar for the Conn Smythe. But he’s having a quieter series by MacKinnon standards, with three points in four games. He certainly will end up on ballots, but the Avalanche star forward likely will have to settle for just the Stanley Cup ring.
Mikko Rantanen (+859)
Rantanen is having by far the most underrated postseason out of anyone on the Avalanche.
He received some criticism earlier in the postseason for his lack of goal scoring, recording just one goal through the first two rounds which was an empty-netter. But he answered with a goal in all four games against the Oilers in the conference finals. Despite the fact that he’s been held without a goal against the Lightning, he has eight assists through the first four games of the finals.
Heading into Game 5, Rantanen is on an eight-game point streak, registering 14 points in that span. In total, he has five goals and 20 assists during the 2022 playoffs. He’s tied with Makar for the lead in helpers, first on the team in primary assists with 13 and is second to only Makar in points.
While the spotlight has been on Makar and MacKinnon, Rantanen also deserves credit for his contributions during this Cup run.