Instituted in 1965, the Conn Smythe Memorial Trophy is awarded to the Most Valuable Player in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and has been presented to such legends as Bobby Orr, Ken Dryden, Mark Messier, Bernie Parent, Wayne Gretzky, and Mario and Claude Lemieux.
If a winner could be chosen today, after two games of the Stanley Cup Final have been played, it would most likely be going to Los Angeles netminder Jonathan Quick — and with good reason. Quick has clearly been a factor in the Kings’ franchise-best playoff run, and has performed tremendously since the start of the season, in fact. He is one of the main reasons why the Kings are only two games away from winning hockey’s greatest prize.
While Quick is the most likely candidate for the honor, there is another Kings player who is well-deserving of the same prize: Anze Kopitar.
Despite having four 70-plus point seasons in his six years in the league and scoring 434 points in 475 NHL games, Kopitar is a player that often flies under the radar.
The two-time All-Star selection was a big contributor during the Kings’ regular season, scoring 76 points in 82 games. He has scored 16 points during this postseason, three of which have come in his last five games. Kopitar was the hero of Game 1 of the Final, scoring the game-winner in overtime.
It isn’t just Kopitar’s offensive prowess that makes him deserving of Conn Smythe consideration. He’s also a talented defensive player, and has been one of the best two-way centres in the postseason. His plus-14 ties him for first on the team, as does his two short-handed goals.
Kopitar has always been a strong and productive player, and now, on a national stage, the pride of Jesenice, Slovenia is finally starting to get the recognition he deserves. His overall contributions thus far definitely earn him at least a runner-up nod for the Trophy, but an electrifying breakaway winner in the championship round against a three-time Cup winning goaltender in Martin Brodeur didn’t hurt a bit.
(Honorable mention has to go out to Dustin Brown, who also has 16 points in the postseason, and is the player with whom Kopitar is tied for the plus-minus lead and short-handed tallies. If ever there was a time where there could be a three-way tie for the Conn Smythe, it’s now.)