LAS VEGAS — The Vegas Golden Knights and Florida Panthers are set for the Stanley Cup Final, which gets underway Saturday at T-Mobile Arena.
All eyes are on specific standout players who have helped both teams get to this point, especially the impressive run by the eighth-seeded Panthers, who got past the Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes.
But our focus is on the Golden Knights, who beat the Winnipeg Jets in five games, and both the Edmonton Oilers and Dallas Stars in six games. In the first round Vegas was favored, but the top-seeded Knights actually caught underdog prices in the second and third rounds.
So, who’s been most valuable to Vegas getting into the Stanley Cup Final, and who will be the guy who continues to shine against Florida to lead the Knights to the Cup?
Everybody loves lists, so here are the Top 5 choices (in reverse order) to win the Conn Smythe if Vegas hoists Lord Stanley’s Cup (odds courtesy SuperBook Nevada).
- Mark Stone (+1600) – The captain was held scoreless over the last four games of the Western Conference Final, but to that point, he had 15 points (6 goals, 9 assists), with three goals on even strength and three on the power play. Stone spent the last 39 games of the regular season on the shelf after a second back surgery, but responded in the postseason by sparking the entire team with his presence. An offensive surge could catapult him into the conversation.
- Adin Hill (+1200) – Since entering Game 3 of the second round for injured Laurent Brossoit, Hill has been tremendous considering the road he took to get here. This is a guy who spent more time in Henderson with the AHL Silver Knights than he did with the big boys during the regular season. Yet he’s 7-3 in the postseason with a 2.07 goals-against average and .937 save percentage and has two shutouts along the way. If the Knights hoist the Cup, that would mean Hill outdueled Sergei Bobrovsky, and the younger netminder would deserve a mention for MVP.
- Jack Eichel (+375) – In his first postseason, it’s been impressive to see Eichel perform at the level you’d expect from a grizzled postseason veteran. He’s handled his role with poise and is sitting sixth overall during the playoffs with 18 points (7 goals, 11 assists). Like Stone, we’ve seen a bit of a scoring drought from Eichel, who hasn’t found the back of the net since Game 5 vs. Edmonton. It’s why the Knights are an impressive group because without scoring from Stone and Eichel, we’ve seen the team’s depth. Now, imagine what this team does if Eichel gets hot in this series.
- Jonathan Marchessault (+800) – The diminutive leader who was part of the original Golden Knights roster that went to the 2018 Stanley Cup Final, Marchessault has become Mr. Clutch this postseason. During his career, spanning six postseasons, he’s scored 0, 8, 4, 3, and 6 goals. He’s already scored 9 goals during these playoffs, and the fact we’ve seen inspired play from the original misfits leads me to believe Marchessault at a big price to win the Conn Smythe is pure value as the dark horse. And let’s not forget, Marchessault, who is scoring 2.8 higher than his goals expected, played for Florida before joining Vegas when it entered the league. A Cup and a Conn Smythe would be bittersweet.
- William Karlsson (+700) – The new father, whose wife had a baby around 1 am on the same day of a playoff game, has surely been inspired. Whether it’s his baby boy, Beckham, or the passion to prove he is still relevant after being shuffled in the backlight behind the likes of Stone and Eichel and so many others who have come and gone during roster turnover since his 43-goal season in 2017 – Karlsson has made a statement. He scored 14 times in 82 regular-season games, but he’s scored 10 times in 17 playoff games. Karlsson has scored 4.8 above his goals-expected average. If he continues this torrid offensive pace and exhibits his skills in the defensive zone, he’ll have something to tell young Beckham someday.