Five Kings are worthy of Conn Smythe Trophy

Los Angeles Kings forwards Anze Kopitar (left) and Jeff Carter are favourites for the Conn Smythe...

Los Angeles Kings forwards Anze Kopitar (left) and Jeff Carter are favourites for the Conn Smythe Trophy. (Reuters)

Steve Simmons, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:39 PM ET

We know who is going to win the Stanley Cup. What we don’t know: Who is going to win the Conn Smythe Trophy?

And if anything loudly demonstrates the strength, depth and quality of the soon to be two-time champion, Los Angeles Kings, it comes from the number of players on their team deserving of playoff MVP status.

This is an assignment for the Stanley Cup debating class. There are at least five players to discuss here — and we’re not even mentioning Marion Gaborik, who leads the playoffs in scoring — each of whom is worthy of the trophy that has been won twice by Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux — the three greatest players in hockey history.

CASE FOR DOUGHTY

Doughty has been a four-round wizard on defence for the Kings, playing all situations, eating minutes, skating five and a competing more than anyone else on his team. Doughty does a little bit of everything — he creates offence, he make the first pass out of his zone succinctly, he operates the power play, he hits, he is commanding on the ice, and he makes his teammates better, the best example being the emergence of his lightly regarded partner, Jake Muzzin.

Doughty’s 17 points are the most by a playoff defenceman in four years and if he gets another point in Game 5, it’s the most scoring by a backliner since Chris Pronger had 21 in 2006.

It’s entirely possible that Doughty will win Olympic gold, the Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe in the same year. The only other player to do that: Jonathan Toews.

CASE FOR KOPITAR

Gretzky said it the other night: He called Kopitar the third best player in hockey, behind Sidney Crosby and Toews. And he’s living up to that billing quite nicely.

Kopitar, like Doughty, has been a four-round player, although his offence hasn’t been overwhelming in the Cup final.

He matched up against Joe Thornton and Logan Couture in Round 1, against Ryan Getzlaf in Round 2, against Toews in Round 3 and each time came out the better. That is formidable on its own. His 26 points lead the playoffs in scoring and his 21 assists almost doubles anyone who doesn’t play for the Kings.

Kopitar is a force up front, a force killing penalties. Los Angeles has taken 19 more minors than the New York Rangers and the Kings are at 83.5% while down a man. He leads his team offensively and defensively.

CASE FOR CARTER

This has been the coming-out year for Jeff Carter as a big-time NHL player and the bigger the game the better he seems to play.

It started in Sochi, where Carter played a large role for Team Canada and that has carried on into the playoffs where his surprising ‘That 70’s line’ with youngsters Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson has produced 49 points; Carter with almost half of that.

The move from the wing to centre has freed up the recently maturing Carter to demonstrate his entire skill package and his size and speed and drive has been so difficult for opponents to stop in the playoffs. He had opportunities to score two or three goals in Game 4 in New York and his 10 goals lead all centres in the playoffs. The other three Los Angeles centres have scored 11 goals combined.

CASE FOR WILLIAMS

Justin Williams is known as Mr. Game 7 although it’s highly unlikely this Stanley Cup final will proceed that far.

But what he has done again this playoff season is quite remarkable. Playing mostly on the third line, Williams has been a straight line for the Kings. He scored six points against San Jose, already has six in four games against New York in the final, scored seven against Chicago and five against Anaheim.

Williams is a player that needs to be watched closely because he is so smart and unspectacular, does so many little things, protects the puck well, manages the game wonderfully and right now is fourth in the playoffs in goal scoring, second in assists, second in points scored, first in plus-minus.

CASE FOR QUICK

Unlike the rest of his teammates, Quick has already won a Conn Smythe and his was basically uncontested: He was superb when Los Angeles won in 2012, allowing seven goals against in six games. He has been more up and down these playoffs, but still he factors in so much of the Kings success.

This is his fourth round of the playoffs and he has been the better goalie in all four of the rounds in which he has played. He needed to supply wins in Game 7 of the first three rounds and was great when he needed to be great — winning his past three overtime games.

Since giving up 12 goals in five periods against San Jose in Round 1, Quick has had a goals against average of 2.30 per game and a save percentage of .931 in the Cup final, where for three of four games he ouplayed Henrik Lundqvist.

Quick isn’t likely to win, but several NHL people, including the great Martin Brodeur, would vote for him if given the opportunity.

My pick, with the series not yet over: Doughty. That can change Friday night. It is that close. There is no wrong choice here.


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