Conn Smythe favorite for each playoff team selected by NHL.com

It’s even harder to pick the MVP before the two-month tournament gets started.

But that hasn’t stopped NHL.com from identifying the favorite to win the Conn Smythe Trophy, which is voted on by a select panel of members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, from each of the 16 teams in the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Here are the choices:

Boston Bruins

David Pastrnak When Pastrnak gets hot, there’s no stopping him, and he’s looking pretty good. After missing three weeks, from April 4 to April 23, Pastrnak has six points (two goals, four assists) in three games back, getting him to 40 goals on the season for the second time in his NHL career, with 77 points. When the power play is humming, it goes a long way towards the Bruins being successful, and Pastrnak is what makes that power play hum. – Amalie Benjamin, staff writer

Calgary Flames

Jacob Markstrom The goalie has been the backbone of Calgary’s renewed commitment to defense and a key factor in clinching first in the Pacific Division. With a record of 37-15-9 in 63 starts, a 2.22 goals-against average, a .922 save percentage, an NHL-leading nine shutouts and two or fewer goals allowed in 39 of 63 starts, playoff success will hinge on a continuation of his steady excellence. – Tim Campbell, staff writer

Carolina Hurricanes

Sebastian Aho With the uncertainty about goalie Frederik Andersen‘s injury status – he’s among the NHL leaders in wins (35), goals-against average (2.17) and save percentage (.922) – Aho is the choice. The forward led the Hurricanes in almost every offensive category, including goals (37), assists (44), points (81), power-play goals (13) and game-winning goals (nine). He has 35 points (14 goals, 21 assists) in 34 NHL playoff games. – David Satriano, staff writer

Colorado Avalanche

Nathan MacKinnon Not only does the center average more points per game in the playoffs (1.38) than the regular season (1.02), he’s third in NHL history among players who have appeared in at least 35 postseason games. Who’s he behind? Wayne Gretzky (1.84) and Mario Lemieux (1.61). If he can stay calm and composed when opponents key on him, especially when the pressure is on late in a series, he can lead the Avalanche to the Cup. – Nicholas J. Cotsonika, columnist

Dallas Stars

Joe Pavelski The top line has been incredible this season and Pavelski is a big part of that success. The 37-year-old leads the Stars with 81 points (27 goals, 54 assists) in 82 games this season. Pavelski is one of the best at tipping / redirecting shots on goal, and considering how those type of goals come into play in the postseason, he’ll be a tremendous asset there. – Tracey Myers, staff writer

Edmonton Oilers

Connor McDavid Thirty-one opponents spent 82 regular-season games trying to devise ways to contain or limit the NHL scoring champion, with infrequent and limited success. A driven McDavid continues to set the bar higher, having finished off an NHL career-best season of 123 points (44 goals, 79 assists) in 80 games for his fourth Art Ross Trophy and fifth season reaching the 100-point plateau, and the Oilers can go as far as he will take them. – Tim Campbell, staff writer

Florida Panthers

Alexander Barkov The center was voted the second most complete player in the League behind Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby in a recent NHL Players’ Association poll. Barkov won the Selke Trophy as the NHL’s best defensive forward last season, and he set an NHL career high with 39 goals this season despite playing 67 games. The captain of the Panthers does it all at both ends of the ice. – Nicholas J. Cotsonika, columnist

Los Angeles Kings

Jonathan Quick The goalie has heated up in time for the playoffs, going 7-1-2 with a 2.23 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage in his past 11 regular-season starts, including 5-0-0 with a 1.60 GAA and .938 save percentage in his past five. Quick won the Conn Smythe in 2012, when he was 16-4 with a 1.41 GAA, .946 save percentage and three shutouts to help the Kings win their first championship. The 36-year-old will need a similar performance this postseason for them to win. – Tom Gulitti, staff writer

Minnesota Wild

Kirill Kaprizov The forward holds all the keys for the Wild, who will need to generate some offense to go with a suffocating 200-foot game that has been their bread and butter during an outstanding season. Kaprizov had 47 goals in the regular season, and with 108 points figured in 30.8 percent of the goals they scored. If he stays hot, the Wild will be a tough out. – Shawn P. Roarke, senior director of editorial

Nashville Predators

Roman Josi Nashville’s captain led all NHL defensemen in assists (73), points (96), power-play goals (11) and shots on goal (281) and averaged 25:33 of ice time in 80 games. He’s the heart and soul of a hungry club for a long, successful run in the playoffs. – Mike Morreale, staff writer

New York Rangers

Igor Shesterkin The goalie has been the Rangers MVP, and nothing will change in the playoffs. The 26-year-old is the favorite to win the Vezina Trophy as the best NHL goalie, going 36-13-4 with a 2.07 goals-against average, .935 save percentage and six shutouts. Shesterkin’s composure, ability to cancel out odd-man rushes, turn aside breakaways, make the routine and challenging saves, and play the puck like a third defenseman makes him New York’s best weapon and most important player in the playoffs. – Dan Rosen, senior writer

Pittsburgh Penguins

Sidney Crosby The 34-year-old captain knows what it takes to win the Conn Smythe, having done it in 2016 and 2017 during the Penguins’ back-to-back Stanley Cup victories. He has 191 points (69 goals, 122 assists) in 174 postseason games, which ranks him seventh all-time. Crosby had 84 points (31 goals, 53 assists) in the regular season, tied for the Penguins scoring lead with forward Jake Guentzelwhile being their best two-way forward, if not one of the best in the NHL. – William Douglas, staff writer

St. Louis Blues

Ryan O’Reilly The Blues have nine forwards with 20 or more goals this season, but none are as important as their captain. He finished with 21 goals by scoring four in his final two games. No Blues forward sees as much ice per game (19:05) and none are as defensively adept. – Shawn P. Roarke, senior director of editorial

Tampa Bay Lightning

Victor Hedman The 31-year-old Norris Trophy-winning defenseman had arguably the best regular season of his 13-year NHL career, finishing with career highs in goals (20), assists (65) and points (85) playing in all 82 games. Among NHL defenseman, Hedman was third in goals, second in assists and third in points. He played 25:05 per game. He controls the game and should be a finalist for the Norris Trophy, given to the best NHL defenseman, for a sixth straight season. Hedman is the Lightning’s most important skater. – Dan Rosen, senior writer

Toronto Maple Leafs

Auston Matthews The center won the Rocket Richard Trophy as the NHL’s leading goal-scorer, becoming the first Maple Leafs player to score 60 goals in a season and the first player on any team to reach that milestone since Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos did it in 2011-12. The 24-year-old hasn’t enjoyed the same success during the Stanley Cup Playoffs that he’s had in the regular season. He’ll need to score at a better rate than the three goals he’s had in his past 12 postseason games if the Maple Leafs are to defeat the two-time defending champion Lightning in the Eastern Conference First Round. – Mike Zeisberger, staff writer

Washington Capitals

Evgeny Kuznetsov The center’s importance will be magnified with Alex Ovechkin potentially at less than full strength to begin the playoffs because of an upper-body injury. Kuznetsov’s 24 goals, 54 assists and 78 points in 79 regular-season games were his most since 2017-18, when he set NHL career-highs with 27 goals and 83 points. If Kuznetsov can also turn the clock back to the 2018 playoffs, when he led the NHL with 32 points (12 goals, 20 assists) in 24 games, the Capitals will have their best chance to repeat what they did in 2018 and win the Stanley Cup. – Tom Gulitti, Staff Writer

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