The second week of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs is in the books. There is still one first-round series to be decided, but it’s never too early to start looking at candidates to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the postseason’s most valuable player.
There are several early candidates, but they can’t all fit into the top five, which is what you’ll see here. To choose just five, I’ll be considering where a player’s team stands in its series, how players compare to their opponents, and what other players on a candidate’s team have contributed.
This list will likely change quite a bit in the coming weeks, as we move into the second round and beyond. But, through the first two weeks, this is the top five in the 2023 Conn Smythe Trophy power rankings.
Who are the early leaders in the race for the Conn Smythe Trophy?
John Tavares (TOR) – I wouldn’t say his first-round performance warrants him being in the top five, but his overtime goal ended the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 19-year drought, so I’m mentioning him just for that.
Evan Bouchard (EDM) – Three players led the Edmonton Oilers to a first-round victory, and the other two are in the top five. It only seemed fair that Bouchard got mentioned here as well.
Akira Schmid (NJ) – With the fate of the New Jersey Devils still unknown, Schmid doesn’t make the top five. If he leads the Devils to round two, though, he’ll probably be on the list next week.
Chris Kreider (NYR) – Kreider was fourth on this list last week, and he needs to be at least mentioned again because he’s the only Rangers skater that’s scoring in their series. If they make it to the second round, look for him to be back in the top five.
5. Matthew Tkachuk, Florida Panthers (Last Week: NR)
This spot could also go to Brandon Montour, but someone from the Florida Panthers had to be on this list after upsetting the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Boston Bruins.
Tkachuk was the guy who always seemed to be in the middle of things for his team, whether that meant scoring a big goal or stirring things up. Just like in the regular season, he has been the driving force for the Panthers in the playoffs.
4. Philipp Grubauer, Seattle Kraken (NR)
The Seattle Kraken got contributions from many players in round one, just as they did throughout the regular season, and none were bigger than those from goaltender Philipp Grubauer.
After a tough regular season, Grubauer posted a .926 save percentage against the Colorado Avalanche, which is the best single-season save percentage of his playoff career.
I expected the Avs to fill the net in this series, so Grubauer preventing that lands him in the Conn Smythe Trophy discussion.
3. Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers (1)
Leon Draisaitl’s seven goals lead all playoff participants, and he was a huge reason that Edmonton eliminated the Los Angeles Kings. However, he goes from the top player on the list last week to the second Oilers forward this week.
The reason that he is no longer the highest-ranked Oilers player is that he wasn’t as impactful in the second half of their series. Truthfully, choosing between him and Connor McDavid is like splitting hairs, as both are more than deserving of being in the top three.
2. Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers (NR)
While Draisaitl led the way for Edmonton early in its series, McDavid turned it on late. The Oilers went 3-0 in the last three games of their first-round matchup, and the NHL’s leading scorer posted seven points in those games.
Clearly, the Oilers’ ability to win coincides with McDavid’s productivity. Draisaitl and Bouchard can only take the team so far before the captain is needed to finish things off, which is the mark of a Conn Smythe Trophy winner. In total, number 97 has three goals and seven assists in the playoffs.
1. Roope Hintz, Dallas Stars (3)
Roope Hintz moves up to the top spot after leading the Dallas Stars to a 4-2 series win over the Minnesota Wild. He leads all skaters with 12 points (five goals and seven assists) in the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
What makes him my frontrunner for the Conn Smythe Trophy is the fact that he’s been the obvious offensive catalyst for Dallas. No other Stars skater has more than seven points, and Hintz had a total of seven points in the last three games of the series, which were all Stars wins.
Arguably, no single player had a larger role in getting his team to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.