NHL Playoffs 2012: Top 12 Favorites to Win the Conn Smythe Trophy

David Barclay@@DjamesIIICorrespondent IApril 13, 2012

NHL Playoffs 2012: Top 12 Favorites to Win the Conn Smythe Trophy

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    In the NHL, I feel there is no greater individual award you can receive that proves your worth as a hockey player more than the Conn Smythe Trophy.

    Awarded annually to the most valuable player in the postseason, it's brought players that we would sometimes overlook to the forefront of the hockey world.

    Last year's winner was, of course, goalie Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins. 

    In this edition, we'll examine the top 12 players favored to win the Conn Smythe this year.

1. Evgeni Malkin

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    Evgeni Malkin laced them up for 75 games this year and had 109 points (50 G, 59 A), so it's no surprise he ushers in the No. 1 position on this list.

    According to Vegas odds, Malkin currently sits at 11/1 to win the Conn Smythe Trophy this postseason.

    With the extended absence of Penguins' captain Sidney Crosby, Malkin stepped up and virtually carried this team into the postseason. By himself.

    Malkin is a phenomenal big-body player. He has tremendous two-way abilities and, in my opinion, is a successful version of the type of player we thought we would see in Eric Lindros.

    He could very well be hoisting two trophies come June, considering of course the Penguins are still around.

2. Daniel Sedin

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    Whether you love or hate the Vancouver Canucks, there's absolutely no denying the talent of captain Daniel Sedin.

    Already with a closet full of trophies, which include the Art Ross Trophy, a Ted Lindsay award and an Olympic gold medal, a Stanley Cup ring is the only thing that's eluded the forward.

    Of course, we've yet to see him lace his skates up this postseason, but according to the Vancouver media, he could possibly be ready for game two against their first round opponent, the Los Angeles Kings.

    Many people believe there is a curse upon the Canucks, which has prevented them from winning a Stanley Cup in their 41-year existence, but if this is the year they win it, Daniel is one of two players on the Canucks' roster who will take home the Conn Smythe.

3. Henrik Lundqvist

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    I don't know if this guy is a model or a hockey player, but I do know one thing. When he puts on his equipment, Henrik Lundqvist is one of the best goalies I've seen in a Rangers' uniform since Mike Richter.

    His 39 wins are a third league best, as well as his .930 save percentage.

    If you live in New York or have ever spent an extended amount of time there, you know the Rangers pretty much get leftover airtime after the Knicks and Yankees have been talked about. They sometimes even take second to the Mets. And that's saying a lot if you're a New Yorker.

    But the current roster of players in New York is looking to change that.

    Before the season started, a friend of mine, who's a die hard Rangers fan, and I mutually agreed that the Rangers would be pushing for a sixth or seventh seed in the playoffs.

    We couldn't have been proven more wrong.

    If the Rangers make it to the Stanley Cup Finals (and that's a big if, mind you), it will have a lot to do with the man in the paint's work.

4. Brian Elliot

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    Before the season started, if you went up to ten hockey fans on the street and told them that Brian Elliot would have the best save percentage in the NHL when the season ended, I guarantee they would call you crazy.

    Well that's just what he has.

    The league leader in save percentage and goals-against average is none other than Blues goaltender Brian Elliot.

    Here we have fans that want a Stanley Cup so bad that they might offer their children up as sacrifice. 

    Only the Toronto Maple Leafs have been waiting longer to win a Stanley Cup. Since their inception in 1967, the Blues have never won a Stanley Cup.

    Sit back and think about that for a second, and then maybe get mad at me for not having Elliot higher up on my list.

5. Joe Thornton

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    Joe Thornton is a soldier, plain and simple. 

    The captain of the San Jose Sharks started in 82 games this season, which was third in the NHL. His 59 assists also ranked third, and he led the league in takeaways.

    His value to the Sharks both on the ice and in the locker room is unprecedented. 

    As the Sharks look to win the franchise's first Stanley Cup, there is no doubt that if it happens, this man will take home the Conn Smythe.

6. Pekka Rinne

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    I don't honestly believe the Predators have any legitimate chance to win the Stanley Cup.

    But in this sport, you really never know.

    I do, however, believe if they do get there, it will be because of one man. 

    Not to discredit the hard work of all the other players on the Predators' roster, but if they made it to the Stanley Cup Final and eventually went on to win, it would be because of goaltender Pekka Rinne.

    I won't knock the Predators too much, but let's hope for the sake of the game that they don't end up in the Finals.

7. Brad Richards

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    The media blitz and coverage of where Brad Richards was going to end up during the summer was almost unbearable. 

    He was by the far the most valuable asset on the free agent market this past offseason, and when he ended up in New York with his old coach John Tortorella, I wasn't at all surprised.

    Richards is a proven leader, and more importantly, he's money in the postseason.

    Having already captured a Stanley Cup and a Conn Smythe Trophy in the 2003-04 season with the Tampa Bay Lightning, it should be no surprise to you that he's cracked the top ten of this list.

8. Roberto Luongo

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    I'm going to keep this slide short.

    Remember when I said Daniel Sedin was one of two players that would win the Conn Smythe if the Canucks won the Stanley Cup?

    Roberto Luongo is the second half of that. And you don't need me to explain why.

9. Antti Niemi

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    Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi is one of two goalies in the postseason this year that has a ring.

    That and the proven fact that Niemi essentially earns his year's salary in the postseason are more than enough reason for him to be on this list. 

    Sure, he had a bit of a manic regular season, but Niemi has already shown he's coming into his regular postseason form, with a tremendous effort against the Blues in game one for the Sharks.

    Niemi stole the entire first overtime period against the Blues, and I'd put the sole reason the Sharks won on his shoulders.

10. Ray Whitney

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    Here's a player a lot of you may not be familiar with. 

    "The Wizard" Ray Whitney as he is known, is one of the most seasoned veterans in the NHL postseason this year.

    I'm sure most of you are wondering why a Phoenix Coyote is even on my Conn Smythe watch list. It's simple. In my opinion, the Coyotes are in fact a legitimate contender for this year's Stanley Cup.

    Call me crazy, but they are riding a giant wave of momentum right now.

11. Jonathan Quick

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    One word can be used to describe Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick: awesome.

    With his league-leading ten shutouts this season, Quick carried his Kings into the playoffs this year.

    He has his work cut out for him with the Vancouver Canucks in the first round, and honestly, the Kings are near the bottom of my postseason bracket, but if they eliminate the Canucks, you better watch out.

    Because Quick is definitely the real deal.

12. Sidney Crosby

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    The final man on this list should be no surprise to you.

    If you live outside of Pittsburgh or don't work for the NHL, you're definitely not foaming at the mouth as much of the time as they are, but there is no doubt that Crosby belongs on this list.

    His talents have proven themselves. He already has one Stanley Cup, a gold medal and countless other accolades he's acquired at the ripe age of 24.

    If the Penguins make it to the Stanley Cup Final and win, you'd better prepare for a huge Crosby front in the media storm.