It is a pair of Western Conference defenseman leading this week’s Conn Smythe Trophy race as Miro Heiskanen of the Stars and Shea Theodore of the Golden Knights claim the top spots in the latest NHL Power Rankings.
For Heiskanen, it is a familiar spot for him as his 2020 postseason performance has put the second-year standout on a superstar trajectory. Theodore, however, has been a steady riser the past couple of weeks given his performance for the Golden Knights on their run to the Western Conference Final.
Who else makes the cut in this week’s Conn Smythe watch?
To the rankings!
1. Miro Heiskanen, Dallas Stars. He has been so good for the Stars, leading their offense (21 points in 17 games … as a defenseman!) and playing lockdown defense. If the Stars keep winning the Conn Smythe is his to lose. Or at least it should be.
2. Shea Theodore, Vegas Golden Knights. Theodore has (very quietly) been awesome in his three years with the Golden Knights, but this postseason has been a breakout performance for him as he leads the Vegas blue line. He drives possession, has been outstanding defensively, and is a constant threat in the offensive zone with the puck on his stick. After this postseason it will be impossible to call him underrated or overlooked. Everyone is going to know exactly how good he is.
3. Brayden Point, Tampa Bay Lightning. There has only been one game this postseason where he did not find the scoresheet. He has 18 points in 13 games, two overtime game-winning goals (including a series-clinching goal) and assisted on another overtime series clinching goal to send the Lightning to another Eastern Conference Final.
4. Mark Stone, Vegas Golden Knights. A stunningly good two-way player that is playing some of the best hockey of his career this postseason. An elite playmaker, a top-line goal-scorer, and the best defensive winger in the league. Worth every asset and dollar the Golden Knights paid to get him.
5. Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders. He may not be the Islanders’ top scorer this postseason (his 13 points in 16 games is still impressive), but he has been their best player and a difference-maker on every shift. Entering Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final he has played 253 minutes of 5-on-5 hockey this postseason, during which time the Islanders have outscored their opponents by a 12-5 margin, controlled 54 percent of the total shot attempts and 56 percent of the scoring chances, and 63 percent of the expected goals (all via Natural Stat Trick).
6. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning. One of the top-five offensive players in the league, Kucherov really took off in the Second Round against Boston with seven points over the final four games of that series (all Tampa wins). He and Point are helping to make up for the absence of Steven Stamkos, who has been ruled out for the entire Eastern Conference Final.
7. Jean-Gabriel Pageau, New York Islanders. I just think he has been one of the biggest game-changers for this team. He fits their defensive structure and mindset perfectly, has played a huge role in shutting down two great offensive teams in Washington and Philadelphia, and he has been one of their top goal-scorers in the playoffs. He deserves a lot of recognition here.
8. Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars. Benn’s offense has declined significantly the past couple of seasons and it has at times resulted in some harsh criticism. But he has come through in a big way this postseason and is helping to drive a shockingly good offensive performance from the Stars.
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