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NHL Futures: Expert Picks for Conn Smythe Trophy and Stanley Cup

NHL Futures: Expert Picks for Conn Smythe Trophy and Stanley Cup article feature image
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Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Connor McDavid.

The Conn Smythe Trophy is given out each year to the most valuable player from the NHL playoffs. It is decided through a vote by members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association at the conclusion of the final game of the Stanley Cup Final.

The Conn Smythe betting market can be an excellent way to find extra value on certain teams to win it all. If we are confident a certain player will almost always win if his team does in fact win the Stanley Cup, it can become more valuable to bet the Conn Smythe number than the team.

Some teams have too many logical MVP candidates, which makes this strategy ineffective.

What has to be weighed is what percentage of the time we believe a team might win the cup without that particular player winning the trophy, and then compare that player’s Conn Smythe number to the price of oddsmakers’ cup outright numbers for that team.

There are often cases when it is extremely hard to see any other player on a team being the MVP, or when we essentially know that if our guy plays poorly, that team is not winning.

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An ideal example to this point is Ilya Sorokin of the Islanders at 80-1 versus New York‘s outright price of 33/1. Sorokin is far and away the greatest argument as to why New York could go on a miraculous run, which would likely involve a lot of low-scoring hockey games being stolen by his incredible play on goal. On top of that, the Islanders do not have much in the way of true superstar skaters, so getting more than two times the odds by selecting Sorokin to win the Conn Smythe Trophy is a smart play.

This strategy appears to be particularly effective this year in particular, and I believe it lets us bring some of the most popular cup outright teams (Edmonton, Boston) back into betting range, while adding some realistic long shots.

A sprinkle on all of these gives us a wide variety of teams which give us a chance at a very modest stake.


Conn Smythe Trophy Odds, Picks

Connor McDavid, Oilers +1200 (FanDuel)

Edmonton has quickly become a very trendy outright pick from pundits and fans alike, which is why I believe McDavid’s Conn Smythe price is such an important one to break down.

My belief is the gap between McDavid to win the Conn Smythe at +1200 and Edmonton’s +800 price to win it all is too wide. Backing McDavid to win this award holds value while Edmonton at +800 is probably just about a fair number.

The reason why the two numbers are so different is oddsmakers’ belief in the potential of Leon Draisaitl or Stuart Skinner surprising and winning instead of McDavid, but I believe that Edmonton winning without McDavid being MVP is an incredibly unlikely occurrence.

The gap between McDavid and every other player on the planet right now is gigantic. PWHA voters know that, and know how important of a storyline it will be to hand McDavid this award if at all feasible.

Even if Draisaitl happened to end up with a few more points than McDavid, it likely would not matter, and I think Draisaitl would need to blatantly outplay McDavid to end up winning a vote. Some examples of this concept could be when Phil Kessel outscored Sidney Crosby by three points in 2016 and lost, or when Evgeny Kuznetsov outscored Alex Ovechkin in 2018 and lost.

This price becomes even better if we consider that the Oilers could actually lose in the Cup Finals and McDavid might still have done enough to win the Conn Smythe.

A player from the losing team has not won the Conn Smythe trophy since J.S. Giguere in 2003, but if McDavid were to play at the level we saw in regular season all playoffs, he could likely still claim the award.

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Jake Oettinger, Stars +4500 (FanDuel)

Behind a significantly worse Stars team in the playoffs last year, Oettinger played one of the greatest series of any goaltender in the history of hockey, but fell just short in overtime Game 7.

Since that point, Dallas has gotten significantly better, and is a real threat to win it all. Relative to its outright chance, I actually am fairly low on the Stars. However, I will play Oettinger because my firm belief is that he wins more often– compared to Jason Robertson or Roope Hintz — if the Stars make a run than odds suggest.

The Stars will still likely play a low-scoring brand of playoff hockey, and Oettinger should start on the right foot versus Minnesota in a series that will be extremely low scoring.


Patrice Bergeron, Bruins +2700 (FanDuel)

After its historic 135-point campaign, Boston is all the way down to +350 to win it all, and I just do not see that as a playable number in a stacked East bracket.

Because of the fact that Boston has so many conceivable Conn Smythe winners, Bergeron is way down at +2700 with players from teams far less likely to get to the final.

Bergeron is realistically behind Linus Ullmark, David Pastrnak and perhaps even Charlie McAvoy in some people’s eyes in terms of Boston’s regular-season MVP, but his reputation — and a perfect narrative — could help him steal the Conn Smythe often enough that I like this bet.

Bergeron has an excellent reputation from media, fans, players and coaches around the league for being a great person, an excellent leader and an incredible two-way player. He would in all likelihood retire in storybook fashion if Boston were to go all the way, setting up the perfect chance to be sent off with the Conn Smythe.

His tremendous defensive play allows a stronghold for media to take if — and when — his offensive numbers likely end up well below Pastrnak’s. Wearing the “C” and being the leader never hurts.

I believe this is a narrative that will gain traction unless other members of the team are outplaying him by a gigantic margin.


Jack Hughes, Devils +3000 (FanDuel)

Hughes makes the cut because I actually like the Devils’ Stanley Cup upside relative to the market. New Jersey displayed some of the best two-way hockey of any team in the league this year, and has a stacked offensive roster with a very solid blue-line.

Inexperience and the possibility that its rush-based offensive style does not convert well to the postseason are two of the knocks against New Jersey. It remains to be seen if those are actual flaws, and could be nothing but easy cliche narratives which do not necessarily come from concrete evidence.

Vitek Vanecek has been very sharp in goal, but not to the point where I view him as a threat to steal this award, plus New Jersey is not likely to be outshot or outplayed and forced to rely on a goaltender too often if it actually wins. Dougie Hamilton might draw some looks from the back end, but I believe he is not likely to be the greatest causation if New Jersey actually took this home.

With 99 points in 78 games, Hughes was by a wide margin New Jersey’s best player in the regular season, and I believe that is far from an anomaly.

At this point, he is simply their best player by some margin.


Filip Gustavsson, Wild +10000 (bet365)

By no means do I like the Wild’s chances of hoisting the Stanley Cup, but if they do, I believe it is far more likely to be because of the play of its incredible goaltender compared to the play of forward Kirill Kaprizov.

Oddsmakers disagree, however, so we get a crazy number here.

Gustavsson played to a +24.2 GSAx rating and a .931 save % in 39 games, and likely would be in the Vezina conversation with a larger sample. He thrived behind some excellent defensive play down the stretch, and it is conceivable given the randomness of the NHL playoffs that his side goes on a run despite a lack of offensive talent.

This is worthy of a very small play as a result, and holds far more value than backing the Wild at +2500.

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