With the first round of the 2021 NHL playoffs now complete, the time to begin to look at five early Conn Smythe trophy favorites is here. Shocking the entire hockey landscape in their opening series, the Montreal Canadiens battled back after trailing three games to one. Stunning the Toronto Maple Leafs, the fourth-place finisher in the North Division has now advanced into the second round to take a commanding 3-0 lead over the Winnipeg Jets.
Quickly dispatching the Edmonton Oilers in four games, Paul Maurice’s group received stellar goaltending from former Vezina Trophy winner Connor Hellebuyck. In the top ten for netminders with a .931 save percentage and a 2.14 goals-against average, the first round also saw spectacular performances from Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan Mackinnon and Tampa Bay Lightning sniper Nikita Kucherov as they lead the playoffs with 13 and 17 points each respectively.
Five Early Conn Smythe Trophy Favorites
Returning to the Tampa Bay Lightning for game one in their opening-round tilt against the Florida Panthers, Kucherov remained on fire with points in five of the series six games. Along with this, the 2019 Hart Trophy winner has also played nearly 20 minutes a night for Jon Cooper’s team alongside Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat. As slick and skilled offensively as any player in the league, the 27-year-old leads the NHL with 12 assists through ten playoff games.
Furthermore, the former 58th overall pick has also remained solid both in his own zone and on the powerplay, allowing his team to gain a 3-1 lead on the Carolina Hurricanes in round two. A juggernaut group once again who looks destined to head back to the Stanley Cup Finals, Kucherov headlines the first player on our five early Conn Smythe trophy favorites list.
A rock in between the pipes for the defending Stanley Cup Champions through eight games, Vasilevskiy has remained the primary reason Tampa Bay has lost just three times so far. Faced with 348 shots, the 26-year-old has amassed a .928 save percentage and a 2.46 goals-against average. Struggling in five-on-five play at points during their first-round series against the Panthers, the former 19th overall pick has allowed just eight goals through the team’s first four games against the Hurricanes.
Looking to follow up a Hart Trophy caliber regular season with his first-ever playoff most valuable player trophy, the Russian native trails only Minnesota Wild goaltender Cam Talbot with one shutout. A world-class goaltender and one of the biggest difference-makers in the league, he is currently listed at +450 to capture the award, according to Bodog.
Helping lead Boston past the Washington Capitals in five games, the talented Bruins sniper has racked up five goals and six assists through eleven playoff games. The 25-year-old has also remained deadly on the powerplay with his vision and creativity, amassing five points with the extra man. Joined on the team’s top unit by Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, the team’s top line has averaged more than 19 minutes of total ice time per night.
With three multi-point playoff games already for Bruce Cassidy‘s team, highlighted by a game one hat trick in their second-round series against the Islanders, Pastrnak is second in the playoffs with 47 shots on goal. Often overlooked by his veteran linemates, the seven-year veteran checks in as the third member on our five early Conn Smythe Trophy favorites list.
The odds on favorite to capture the award through one round, MacKinnon helped Colorado quickly sweep the St Louis Blues. Leading all players with six goals and nine points in the opening round, the former number one overall pick was able to continue his stellar play in the team’s first two games in their second-round series against the Vegas Golden Knights.
Racking up four points in the series’s first four games, the Halifax Mooseheads alumn has lead the Avalanche to a 2-2 tie heading back to Colorado. Amassing 25 points in the playoffs a year ago despite being knocked out in the second round, Mackinnon has begun to make a case for the best player league-wide. Offering highlight-reel plays with his game-breaking speed night in and night out, the 25-year-old has his team on an inside track to get back to their first Stanley Cup Final since 2001.
Remaining in world-class form after helping Montreal shock Toronto in the opening round of the playoffs, Price has helped the Canadiens take a commanding 3-0 lead over Winnipeg. Outplaying his counterpart in Hellybuyck, the 33-year-old has amassed a .938 save percentage and a 1.97 goals-against average while leading all netminders with seven wins.
Often looking unbeatable at times, the Vancouver native turned in a vintage performance on Sunday night. Stopping 26 of 27 shots, Price allowed his team’s offense to shine in a dominating 5-1 victory. Often looking unbeatable in the net due to his calm, relaxed demeanor, he has allowed the underdog Canadiens to come within just five games of returning to the Stanley Cup final since 1993. Currently listed at +900 to capture the award, Price rounds out our five early Conn Smythe favorites list.