Only four teams remain in the hunt for the 2022 Stanley Cup title. It’s a postseason that has been speckled with unforgettable individual performances. At times, those players took over shifts and entire games to carry their team to victory. Heading into the Conference finals, a group of players is beginning to separate themselves as the most valuable contributors of the 2022 playoffs.
Here are the frontrunners from each remaining team to take home playoff MVP honors.
Connor McDavid, C and Leon Draisaitl, RW (Edmonton Oilers)
If Connor McDavid can propel the Edmonton Oilers to the Stanley Cup final, his fate as the Conn Smythe winner may be solidified, whether or not the Oilers can hoist the Cup. His single-handed impact, which includes a mind-boggling 26 points in 12 games, which included the overtime winner pushing Edmonton into the Conference finals is undeniable. Leon Draisaitl remains dominant as well, but McDavid is the game-changer. Hockey has forever been considered the quintessential team game, with no player able to change their team’s destiny alone. McDavid is changing that narrative. But if Draisaitl can take over in this series, the momentum could swing – assuming the Oilers move on, of course.
Nathan MacKinnon, C and Cale Makar, D (Colorado Avalanche)
His miraculous second-round goal didn’t result in a game or series win, but it did signal Nathan MacKinnon’s ability to elevate his game in the post-season. His 13 points are among league leaders, and given that his opening round performance resulted in a four-game sweep, MacKinnon’s points per game output trails only three players – Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Nikita Kucherov. It’s elite company. Cale Makar is tied with MacKinnon, and not to be outdone in impact. The blueliner has driven play for Colorado and is not only capable of playing heavy defensive minutes, Makar is a constant threat to jump into the play or lead the rush. If it’s not MacKinnon, it will be Makar.
Andrei Vasilevskiy, G (Tampa Bay Lightning)
Nikita Kucherov continues to score big goals for Tampa. His impact has been magnified with Brayden Point shelved by injury. When it comes to big game performances, and pushing his team over the hump, however, it’s netminder Andrei Vasilevsky who shows up. Vasilevsky’s record in elimination games and his league-leading .932 save percentage are enough to hand him the trophy now…for the second straight year. Tampa has won back-to-back Stanley Cup titles with Vasilevsky, and towering blueliner Victor Hedman winning the Conn Smythe awards for those runs. While Hedman remains dominant in all situations, Vasilevsky’s ability to weather adversity, and provide stability against Florida and Toronto, two of the most dynamic offensive teams in the NHL, was masterful.
Adam Fox, D (New York Rangers)
The defender with the most points in NHL history in elimination games in a single playoff is Adam Fox, and he’s the New York Rangers’ leading candidate for the Conn Smythe. This playoff season has involved two come-from-behind Game 7 wins over Pittsburgh and Carolina for the Rangers. Regularly playing more than 26-minutes per night, Fox is on the ice more than any New York player, and has scored at more than a point-per-game pace throughout the first two rounds. His impact on the game at both ends of the ice, on special teams and at even strength, has been unchallenged by any other blueliner this postseason. His multi-point game seven performance against Carolina was a statement in his case for the Conn Smythe. To beat Tampa Bay, Fox will need to be at his best.