For many hockey players, the Conn Smythe Trophy is one of the most sought-after prizes in the National Hockey League. The trophy was donated to the NHL in 1964 by Maple Leaf Gardens and is awarded to the best player of each seasons Stanley Cup playoffs. The trophy honors former NHL Hall-of-Fame legend Conn Smythe, who once owned the Maple Leaf hockey team. The Conn Smythe was originally little more than an afterthought for the teams and players of the NHL but slowly, over the decades, it has come to be regarded as one of the most significant prizes in the NHL.

The winner of the Stanley Cup is determined by tables and points, but the procedure for determining the winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy is much more nuanced. After the Stanley Cup Final has concluded play, members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association cast a vote to determine which player should be named the Most Valued Player. The NHL Commissioner will then announce the winning player shortly before the Stanley Cup presentation.

There is little doubt that the Conn Smythe is one of the most treasured rewards for NHL players today; you only have to monitor each seasons NHL Odds and betting lines to see this. At the same time, however, the way that the trophy is presented can sometimes make it feel overshadowed by the Stanley Cup. ESPN explained this phenomenon as “For the Conn Smythe winner, winning the MVP with the Stanley Cup just inches away is a lot like learning you’ve won a new washer/dryer as they’re handing your neighbors the Powerball check”. We doubt any former Conn Smythe winners would agree with that statement, but thought it was an amusing quote all the same!

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How the Conn Smythe is Decided

The Conn Smythe winner used to be decided by a secret ballot prior to 2017, but the system has since changed making the 18 Professional Hockey Writers’ Association votes public. The former clandestine process was often criticized for being too opaque, and interest in the trophy has only continued to rise since the change was made.

Whilst certain teams tend to dominate the Stanley Cup and the top of the NHL league tables, the Conn Smythe tends to be much more eclectic. That being said, there have been periods when the trophy has gone to a superstar player several times – think Patrick Roy, Wayne Gretzky, and the like – but there have been more than a few surprises over the years as well.

For example, when Sidney Crosby won the Conn Smythe trophy in 2016, many pundits in the ice hockey world went public with their view that Phil Kessel obviously deserved to win the trophy that year, and Crosby had received the award based on his reputation alone. The decision ended up being so troublesome for the PHWA that many believe it was the basis for their decision to open up the voting process the following year.

And yet, for all its faults, the Conn Smythe remains an exciting and unpredictable award – sometimes it goes to an obvious player, other times it will be awarded to someone who has never won a Hart or Selke trophy in their entire career; players such as Bill Ranford in 1989, Henrik Zetterberg (2008), and Justin Willliams (2014) fall into the latter category, yet few would deny their worthiness for their Conn Smythe trophies.

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Predicting the 2021/2022 Season Winner

Analyzing the winner of the last 25 Conn Smythe trophy only brings up the most minimal of patterns; Any position can win the trophy, but players who spend longer periods on the ice tend (more than 20 minutes per game) tend to have a much better chance than others. Players don’t have to be the biggest scorer in the playoffs, although it helps, but being one of the top two scorers of a specific team seems to be very important. A handful of game-winning goals seem to be a must. 

There is still a long way to go until the end of the current season, and with so many other factors to consider we can understand why many people leave crunching the numbers to the bookmakers.

The top five candidates for the 2021/2022 Conn Smythe are as follows:

Nathan MacKinnon +500
Cale Makar +650
Mikklo Rantanen +1,200
Nazem Kadri +1,400
Gabriel Landeskog +1,500

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