Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar, Igor Shesterkin and Andrei Vasilevskiy are the four favorites to take home the Conn Smythe Trophy, so who should you back with your NHL futures bet?
Thanks in large part to the Avs booking their place in the Stanley Cup Final, NHL betting lines have MacKinnon (+225) and Makar (+275) sitting atop the Conn Smythe favorites.
NHL playoff odds have Shesterkin (+750) and Vasilevskiy (+1200) rounding out the top four.
The Conn Smythe has been awarded to a member of the Stanley Cup winning team all but five times, the last of which saw Jean-Sebastian Giguere triumph after Anaheim lost to New Jersey in the 2003 final.
Here’s a rundown of the candidate’s chances of winning the highly coveted individual honor.
Andrei Vasilevskiy: +1200
Vasilevskiy is vying for a third straight Stanley Cup and second Conn Smythe Trophy in as many years. And he has every chance of accomplishing the odds-defying feat.
When dissecting Vasilevskiy’s numbers from his Conn Smythe-winning playoff run, you can see why he was the decisive recipient. Vasilevskiy went 16-7 with a 1.90 goals-against average (GAA), a .937 save percentage and an outrageous five shutouts, four of which came in series-clinching games.
While his numbers in the current postseason are clearly inferior (2.54 GAA, .922 save percentage, one shutout), he is still every bit as valuable to the Lightning’s Cup chances as he was last season. Vasilevskiy endured an inconsistent first round against Toronto but recaptured his Vezina form against Florida in Round 2.
Against the Panthers, he went 4-0 with a near-perfect .981 save percentage and a paltry 0.75 GAA.
A rare sluggish Game 1 performance against the New York Rangers has severely impacted his numbers in the Eastern Conference Final. In three games, thanks to conceding six goals in Game 1, Vasilevskiy has a distorted .880 save percentage and 3.72 GAA.
If Tampa makes the final, it would mean the defending Conn Smythe Trophy winner outdueled soon-to-be Vezina winner Shesterkin. That would surely put him in pole position to retain his Conn Smythe crown.
Igor Shesterkin +750
Let’s be real. If the New York Rangers win the Stanley Cup, there is little doubt as to whose name will be engraved on the Conn Smythe Trophy.
While NHL betting lines have Shesterkin as +750 third favorite, he would be the irrefutable favorite if the Rangers’ place in the Stanley Cup Final was, like Colorado’s, guaranteed.
After a challenging introduction to his first playoffs, Shesterkin has settled in and proven right those who voted for him as a Hart Trophy finalist. So far in the playoffs he is 10-6 with a .930 save percentage and 2.62 GAA.
Like Vasilevskiy, Shesterkin’s numbers improved dramatically in the second round. Against the Hurricanes, he had a sublime .949 save percentage and skimpy 1.72 GAA.
If you think the Rangers will get by the Lightning, backing Shesterkin is a no-brainer. He is the unrivaled difference maker and has the ability to backstop the Rangers to Stanley Cup glory.
If he continues putting up supernatural-like performances and the Rangers fall at the final hurdle, Shesterkin could become the first player to win the coveted award without also winning the Stanley Cup since 2003.
Cale Makar +275
There’s ample evidence to support Cale Makar’s Conn Smythe claim. Makar, along with Adam Fox, is the NHL’s most exciting young defenseman. He’s an elite talent who has earned Jared Bednar’s unconditional trust.
Of the four remaining teams, Makar, who averages 26:56 per game, plays the most. He is entrusted to play in every key situation against the opposition’s best forwards.
Makar held Connor McDavid to a single point and Leon Draisaitl pointless in Games 2 and 3, an accomplishment that sums up his defensive acumen.
Not only is Makar one of the league’s top shutdown defensemen, he also puts up numbers prolific forwards would be proud of.
With a +11 and 22 points, the 23-year-old is fifth in playoff scoring and second amongst defensemen, trailing only Fox, who has played an additional three games, by a single point.
Even with his impressive playoff resume and current second-favorite status, Makar should be seen as a slight outsider to win the trophy, primarily because he’s up against the world’s two best goaltenders and an experienced teammate who is gathering untold momentum.
Nathan MacKinnon +225
The Avs’ best offensive player is showing signs that he’s about to reach top gear. MacKinnon, with 18 points, is currently seventh in playoff scoring.
He is the driving force of Colorado’s offensive machine. The Avs have a deep, well-rounded team, but their chances of lifting the Stanley Cup, to a large degree, depend on MacKinnon’s overall contribution.
The 26-year-old has spent his entire career with the Avs and nothing would mean more to him than leading them to the promised land. He has grown and matured, learning what it takes to win in the postseason after suffering three successive devastating second-round defeats.
And it feels like he has another gear to shift into during the Stanley Cup Final.
With Shesterkin or Vasilevskiy in the picture, living up to his favorite status could be, along with winning the Stanley Cup, the most difficult challenge he’ll ever face.