The frontrunners for the NHL’s Stanley Cup MVP award

The frontrunners for the NHL's Stanley Cup MVP award
The frontrunners for the NHL's Stanley Cup MVP award

The NHL season is deep into its latter stages with only the conference finals and the overall final remaining. Throughout the playoff process so far there have been several exceptional individual performers whose continued form could see them be the face of their franchises’ success in June.

The Conn Smythe Trophy is awarded to the leading performer following the conclusion of the Stanley Cup playoffs each year. With several weeks to go until the eventual final meeting, it is clear which players are in contention for the honour although the picture could still change significantly.

Jake Oettinger

Dallas Stars goaltender Jake Oettinger has been the leading factor behind their run to the Western Conference finals this year. He has produced a career-high post-season campaign which has seen him emerge as the favourite to become the latest MVP in in NHL betting at odds of 21/5.

Oettinger conceded just 2.09 goals per game on average across his opening 13 appearances in the playoffs alongside an impressive save percentage of .918%.

The Stars are also seen as the outright favourites in the Stanley Cup odds at 2/1 – if the trophy does come to Dallas after a 25-year wait then the individual accolade will almost certainly go to their man between the sticks.

Only one goaltender has won the award in the last 10 years but this year there is a strong chance that figure could double.

Igor Shesterkin

Igor Shesterkin is another goaltender who is in serious finals MVP contention this year. However, his position as a slight Stanley Cup outsider in the New York Rangers means he trails Oettinger in the odds at 24/5.

The Russian’s statistics in the post-season have closely rivalled Oettinger’s and a surprise Rangers success could prove to be the difference maker between the pair.

Shesterkin averaged 2.4 goals conceded per game over his opening 10 appearances of the playoffs and his save percentage was superior to the American’s at .923%.

The last goaltender MVP winner was Russian and Shesterkin continuing that trend can certainly not be ruled out – especially if he leads his team to the eventual Stanley Cup final.

Aleksander Barkov

Aleksander Barkov is the most likely outfield player to win the MVP Award come the culmination of the playoffs. His Florida Panthers team are expected to be Eastern Conference champions which would likely set up a matchup against Oettinger’s stars team.

Barkov scored five and assisted eight in his first 11 appearances of the playoffs which is an unrivalled level of scoring and creativity in this year’s post-season.

If the playoffs pan out as expected and the Stars meet the Panthers then Oettinger and Barkov could go head-to-head for the biggest individual honour as well as the team prize.

Shesterkin’s chances will rely on his ability to upset Barkov’s Panthers with his remarkable goaltending, as it is unlikely that anybody who fails to reach the overall final will receive the award.

Some other names could emerge as contenders in the coming weeks if more shocks and surprises occur. Ultimately, the players mentioned here make up the realistic potential winners of the Conn Smythe Award – a shotstopper or an all-action centre will most likely be crowned this year’s finals MVP.