Stanley Cup Final: Golden Knights' grip on series leaves Conn Smythe race hazy

There could be as few as two games left in the Stanley Cup Final, but the race for the playoffs' most prestigious award is still up in the air.

With the Vegas Golden Knight up 2-0 in the Stanley Cup Final with an estimated 84% chance of victory, we should be relatively confident about who's taking home the Conn Smythe Trophy by now.

If the Florida Panthers pull off an improbable upset, the award denoting playoff greatness will go to either Matthew Tkachuk or Sergei Bobrovsky — whoever seemed more instrumental in bringing about the comeback. Barring something truly unforeseen, within an already unlikely scenario, it's as simple as that.

Should Vegas hold on to win its first Stanley Cup in franchise history, things get a little more complicated.

The betting markets indicate that Jonathan Marchessault is a relatively heavy favorite, but the situation remains in flux as there are three strong candidates on the Golden Knights — and one interesting sleeper.

Jonathan Marchessault

There's a reason Marchessault is the favorite right now. He has more goals than anyone left in the playoffs with 12, and he's been on fire lately with 10 scores in his last nine games.

While the Golden Knights possess a deep offense, at this point he has the greatest claim to being the MVP of Vegas' impressive attack.

Marchessault is in the driver's seat here, but he's no mortal lock. If he fails to score from here on out he'll end the postseason with fewer goals than Edmonton Oilers star Leon Draisaitl, who got bounced in the second round. That's not ideal for a player whose case is based on finding the back of the net.

Even if he adds to his total, his offensive production is not leaps and bounds ahead of some of his teammates, and that's what he's hanging his hat on.

Jonathan Marchessault is the Conn Smythe favourite heading into Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, but he's hardly a lock. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Jonathan Marchessault is the Conn Smythe favourite heading into Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, but he's hardly a lock. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Adin Hill

The Vegas goaltender is at a bit of a disadvantage because he didn't make his first start until Game 3 of the second round.

That might be disqualifying for some, but it's tough to overlook just how dominant he's been since then, posting a .937 save percentage. He's given the Golden Knights a massive goaltending advantage early in the Stanley Cup Final that's helped them take a stranglehold on the series.

Hill also has a signature moment to ignite voters' imaginations as his save in Game 1 was one for the history books.

To win this award, Hill might need the series to go deep so his missed games become less and less significant in relative terms. Vegas would have to take a loss or two with Hill continuing to excel, which might be a tough tightrope to walk.

Jack Eichel

Like Marchessault, Eichel has some narrative juice behind him.

After failing to reach the playoffs in the first seven years of his career, he's the top center on the Stanley Cup favorite. The 26-year-old leads the Golden Knights in points (22), and a hot end to this series could have him looking like Vegas' top offensive force.

As a center, his role also has a greater degree of difficulty than Marchessault's. Eichel's case could pick up steam if he's able to recover front a massive Game 2 hit from Tkachuk and perform at a higher level down the stretch.

Eichel's greatest weakness as a Conn Smythe candidate is that he has just six goals in the playoffs thus far. He'd need to bulge the twine a few times from here on out to earn the award.

Mark Stone

There's no doubting that Stone is a dark horse, but he's still in the race if he finishes strong.

Vegas' captain could be a sentimental favorite after returning to action following back surgery that cost him almost half of his regular season. He's also dealt with rough treatment from the Oilers and a brutal cross-check from Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn along the way.

Stone has established his resume as this postseason's top warrior and he's added 17 points in 19 games. While his defensive reputation means he might need less offensive production than some players to win the Conn Smythe, he'd still need an explosive effort or two to earn serious consideration for the award.