Draisaitl & Tkachuk Lead Early 2023 Conn Smythe Trophy Race

In the past five years, only one Conn Smythe Trophy winner led the playoffs in points. That was the case when Ryan O’Reilly won the trophy in 2019. From 1965 to 2022 the award has been given to a player from the team that didn’t win the Stanley Cup on five occasions. The last time that happened was in the 2003 Playoffs with Jean-Sebastian Giguere.

Conn Smythe Trophy Race Matthew Tkachuk, Leon Draisaitl and Frederik Andersen
Matthew Tkachuk, Leon Draisaitl and Frederik Andersen (The Hockey Writers)

Last year it was awarded to the highest-scoring player from the Stanley Cup-winning team, defenceman Cale Makar. He was behind both Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid who had 32 and 33 points respectively despite playing four fewer games. A few players are stating their case to be a Conn Smythe Trophy winner this year, should their team be awarded the Stanley Cup.

Matthew Tkachuk

The big offseason acquisition of Matthew Tkachuk has paid huge dividends for the team and player. He had 109 points this season, 36 of those on the power play. He’s elevated his game and has fit right into the aggressive style that Paul Maurice has the Florida Panthers playing.

Matthew Tkachuk Florida Panthers Linus Ullmark Boston Bruins
Matthew Tkachuk of the Florida Panthers scores the game winning goal on Linus Ullmark of the Boston Bruins during overtime in Game 5 of the First Round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Tkachuk was a huge reason why the Panthers advanced past the Boston Bruins. He was the definition of tenacity every night. He made his presence felt on the scoresheet with five goals, and six assists to total 11 points in the seven games played in Round 1. With another four points through the first two games of their Round 2 matchup versus the Toronto Maple Leafs, he isn’t showing signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Leon Draisaitl

The runaway favorite has to be the German pivot with the Edmonton Oilers, Leon Draisaitl. The German Gretzky leads the league in scoring so far this postseason with a ridiculous 13 goals and 17 points. He has always elevated his play after the regular season, and now that he’s healthy he can step up even more when opponents slow down McDavid.

Leon Draisaitl Edmonton Oilers
Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Draisaitl’s play along the perimeter of the ice has been spectacular. He can protect the puck with ease and just as easily make ridiculous passes to teammates for high-danger scoring chances. If there are no good options for a pass, he is also a dangerous sniper.

Oettinger, Pavelski & Andersen Make Their Case

Jake Oettinger is also making a strong case for the trophy. He carried the Dallas Stars through the first round while his forwards gave him more than enough run support. So far in the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs he has a 2.31 goals-against average (GAA), .921 save percentage (SV%) and five quality starts in eight games.

Related: Oilers’ Draisaitl More Valuable To Team Than McDavid

Joe Pavelski’s playoffs have been excellent as well. With six points in only three games, he’s producing at an elite level. He was injured in Game 1 of the Stars’ Round 1 series against the Minnesota Wild. Look for him to continue to take the reins in their Round 2 series versus the Seattle Kraken, where he already has five goals.

Joe Pavelski Dallas Stars
Joe Pavelski, Dallas Stars (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Frederik Andersen is turning the tide for the Carolina Hurricanes. Having him come back from injury is giving his team a big morale boost. He has been back for three games, and the Hurricanes have won all three of them. He presently has a 0.97 GAA, a .963 SV%, and one shutout.

The race for the Conn Smythe Trophy is almost as exciting as the one for the Stanley Cup. At this point in time, it’s Draisaitl’s trophy to lose.

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