Ryan O’Halloran, Sports Journalist: The NHL awards the Conn Smythe to the most valuable player in the playoffs, not just the final round, so all of the work must be considered. My pick is the Avs Nathan MacKinnon Center. Going into Friday’s Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals, he leads the Avalanche in goals (12), ice time among forwards (21:18), was terrific on the power play (six goals ) and played a disciplined game (eight penalty minutes). His value is evident even when he’s not scoring – once those afterburners are activated, it creates time and space for his teammates.
Mark Kiszla, sports columnist: Well, the NHL won’t let me vote for Conn Smythe. And that’s probably better for everyone involved, because my brain says the winner should be Cale Makar, whose rise to the Bobby Orr stratosphere changed everything for a team long frustrated with early playoff exits. But my heart tells me that the real emotional linchpin of this Cup run has been Nazem Kadri. His hat trick against St. Louis in response to racist and physical threats was the turning point of the playoffs, while his overtime goal against Tampa Bay put the exclamation mark on the arrival of the new champions.
Sean Keeler, sports columnist: The fun part? So many deserving choices. Makar, for taking it another notch on what appears to be the start of a legendary career. Artturi Lehkonen, for being the finest kind of parasite in the clutch. Darren Helm, for being a hitting machine. But my vote goes to Kadri, even if he doesn’t skate another shift for this team the rest of the final. Pick a time. The hat-trick against the Blues that helped break the curse of the second round. The massive nights against Edmonton before Evander Kane decided to continue. The winner of the game in Tampa. When you have too many good candidates, it’s not a good problem. It’s a big.
Mike Chambers, Writer of Avalanche Beats: I was selected to vote for the Conn Smythe Trophy and I’m leaning towards Makar. The Norris Trophy winner seems to win just about anything he wants. He won the Hobey Baker Award as a UMass sophomore in 2019 and won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie in 2020. Makar leads the Avalanche with 27 playoff points and his seven goals are tied for fourth. He is the third-leading scorer in the NHL in the playoffs and the best among defensemen. Just as important as his score is his excellent ability to defend and lead breakouts. End-to-end and side-to-side, Makar is Colorado’s best player and well deserves to follow Joe Sakic (1996) and Patrick Roy (2001) in winning this award with the Avalanche.