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Conn Smythe Trophy rankings: McDavid has the Oilers on his back

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There may have been no point in writing this piece if the Dallas Stars advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. That's because Jake Oettinger just laid out one of the single-best goaltending rounds in recent history versus the Calgary Flames, stopping better than 95 percent of the shots faced in the seven-game series.

Oettinger's worst outing came in Game 5 when he allowed two goals on 31 shots. In many ways his best came in Game 7 when his 64 saves made into overtime weren't enough for the Stars, who were on the wrong end of a 3-2 loss.

But now that he's left some consideration for the rest of the league, let's run down the favorites for the Conn Smythe Trophy — and the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs' most valuable player — now that Round 1 is in the books.

Note: this isn't about likelihood, it's about resumes to this point. Odds included.

Oilers captain Connor McDavid sits atop the Conn Smythe Trophy rankings after an unstoppable performance against the Kings in the first round of the NHL playoffs. (Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Oilers captain Connor McDavid sits atop the Conn Smythe Trophy rankings after an unstoppable performance against the Kings in the first round of the NHL playoffs. (Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

1. Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

Still the best player in the world, I suppose.

No. 97 was spectacular all series, but especially when the Los Angeles Kings backed the Oilers into a corner after Game 5. With Darnell Nurse out in Game 6 and Leon Draisaitl laboring in Game 7, McDavid logged more than 51 minutes over the space of two games with the Oilers facing elimination, scoring twice, assisting on three other goals and accruing 12 shots, 18 shot attempts, 19 individual scoring chances and nine high-danger looks.

Edmonton outscored the Kings 6-1 in his minutes, and was outscored 1-0 without its captain on the ice when facing elimination.

All told for the series, which he iced with a brilliant individual effort late in Game 7, McDavid scored four goals and totalled a postseason-high 14 points. He had a hand in more than half the team's goals and Edmonton had an 80 percent share of the total scoring in his minutes while being served a heavy diet of two of the league's premier shutdown centers, Phillip Danault and Anze Kopitar.

Current odds: +1600

2. Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche

There were several voters rethinking their Norris Trophy votes, I would imagine, while absorbing the first-round matchup between the Colorado Avalanche and Nashville Predators.

Makar was simply on another level in Round 1, racking up three goals and 10 points in the four-game sweep. He led the postseason in points by the time the Avalanche completed the dominant victory and currently ranks tied for fifth in postseason scoring despite playing at least two fewer games than each of the top 30 point-getters so far.

Further to that, his production rate exceeds McDavid's to this point with 5.9 points per hour compared to the Oilers captain's 5.53.

In his top-pairing minutes, Makar led all defensemen with over 100 minutes of postseason ice in total possession and expected-goal share, and the Avalanche outscored Nashville 12-4 in his minutes, including 6-2 at five-on-five.

Current odds: +650

3. Carter Verhaeghe, Florida Panthers

On a team with two players on shortlists for the Hart Trophy, it was Carter Verhaeghe which drove the most meaningful results for the Florida Panthers in their six-game series victory over the Washington Capitals. The found-money forward is second only to McDavid in total production, but managed to amass his 12 points in a little more than 60 percent of the Oilers captain's total ice.

Verhaeghe's 7.46 points per hour truly stands alone in terms of efficiency of impact.

More than total production, however, it's the timing that has been special. It's entirely possible that without Verhaeghe's contributions, Florida would have squandered its Presidents' Trophy season and bowed out in the opening round. He scored five goals and nine points over the final three games of the series as the Panthers erased a 2-1 deficit. He scored the overtime winner in two of those games — one of which clinched the series — and had two goals and five points in the other.

Verhaeghe finished the series with a hand in 12 of the team's 20 goals, and the Panthers held a 11-5 advantage on the scoreboard in his five-on-five minutes.

Current odds: +2600

4a. Jacob Markstrom, Calgary Flames

There's a world where Johnny Gaudreau is the lead candidate for the Flames. He scored the final goal of Round 1 in overtime to set up the Battle of Alberta, and was instrumental in applying the pressure Oettinger thrived on in the Stars' net. But because Oettinger was so brilliant, it made the margins so thin for his counterpart, Markstrom, who had to be exceptional as well in order to see Calgary through.

Markstrom has the best numbers among remaining netminders, stopping pucks at a .943 clip and allowing just 11 goals in the seven-game series. His total GSAA (Goals Saved Above Average) is second only to Mike Smith, who he'll duel with in Round 2.

Current odds: +1100

4b. Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues

There's an argument for Binnington for being as instrumental as any other player in a first-round series victory. St. Louis Blues head coach Craig Berube pulled the right strings early, turning to his former Stanley Cup-winning starter after Ville Husso struggled in Games 2 and 3.

Binnington won all three of his starts, allowing two goals or fewer, and conceded just five total as St. Louis rallied to knock off one of the best teams in the NHL in the Minnesota Wild.

Current odds: +5500

5. Jaccob Slavin, Carolina Hurricanes

If Slavin drove the results he did in a hard match versus Boston's Perfection Line, the Hurricanes' No. 1 defender might be higher on this list. Instead, Carolina coach Rod Brind'Amour worked to weaponize his best defender in the Hurricanes' first-round series victory, which might have been just as important as any decision in one of the tightest series of the first round.

Slavin finished with tremendous numbers, which is his standard. He had two goals and a league-best seven points among defenders at five-on-five, and had only two fewer points overall than Makar and Adam Fox. It is always that even-strength data which shines for the all-situations man, who finished with an on-ice even-strength goal differential of 13-3 versus one of the best five-on-five teams in the NHL.

Current odds: +2700

Other notables

Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche: Five goals in four games (+850)
Mika Zibanejad, New York Rangers: Third in first-round scoring (+8000)
Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning: Slight edge in a series win that didn't feature individual standouts (+2300)
Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues: Hat-trick helped turned the series (+7500)
Evander Kane, Edmonton Oilers: Most goals among players remaining (+15000)

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