Avalanche’s Cale Makar voted Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP

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Cale Makar began the week by winning the 2021-22 Norris Trophy, given to the NHL’s best defenseman. Five days later, he not only helped the Colorado Avalanche win their third Stanley Cup in franchise history, but he also claimed the Conn Smythe Trophy, which is awarded to the most outstanding player in the playoffs following a vote by a panel of Professional Hockey Writers Association members.

According to the PHWA, Makar is the first unanimous winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy since the organization began revealing vote totals in 2017. The Avalanche defenseman received all 18 first-place votes to claim the award.

Makar recorded 29 points in 20 Stanley Cup playoffs games and is the youngest defenseman at 23 years and 239 days to win the Conn Smythe Trophy. He’s also the third player in NHL history to win both the Norris Trophy and playoff MVP in the same season, joining Bobby Orr in 1970 and 1972, and Nicklas Lidstrom in 2002.

That’s pretty good company to be in.

“It’s surreal to me,” Makar said. “You grow up, you see that as a kid, you have pictures on your wall. All I could think about was everybody that got me here.”

The 29 points Makar contributed to the Avalanche’s championship run were the most by a defenseman in 28 years and fourth highest by a blue liner in Stanley Cup playoff history. His point total was also the second-highest in franchise history, five behind Joe Sakic, who serves as the team’s general manager.

Only 12 defensemen have won the Conn Smythe Trophy, with now two winning the award in the past three seasons following Victor Hedman’s triumph in 2020.

An elite level

Makar has been an NHL player for only three seasons but made such an impact on the Avalanche. He stepped in from playing college hockey to immediately becoming one of the team’s best players. He won’t be 24 until October and he’s already won the Hobey Baker Award for NCAA player of the year, Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year, the Norris Trophy, Stanley Cup, and Conn Smythe Trophy. He’s the only player ever to win each of those awards.

“We’ve seen him play this way from Day 1 of the season,” said Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar. “This guy is elite, and with him, the job he does for us offensively and defensively, watching him play, how dynamic he is, he’s just the best defenseman in the game right now.”

UPDATE: The PHWA has release the 18 ballots for the 2021-22 Conn Smythe Trophy, with Makar winning the award unanimously:

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.