Why Jonathan Marchessault is the Conn Smythe Trophy favourite heading to Game 5

Ahead of Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final, Vegas Golden Knights head coach Bruce Cassidy explains why Jonathan Marchessault has become one of the team's most dynamic players.

If and when the Vegas Golden Knights win the Stanley Cup, which could happen Tuesday at T-Mobile Arena, the voting for the Conn Smythe Trophy will be fascinating.

Strong cases can be made for multiple players, such as Jack Eichel, Adin Hill and Mark Stone. But one member of the Golden Knights stands above the rest: Jonathan Marchessault.

It is hard to believe that Marchessault started the playoffs with two assists through seven games. Over the past month, he has been virtually unstoppable, recording 13 goals and 22 points in 14 games — meaning he has factored on more than 40 per cent of the Golden Knights’ goals since the middle of the second round. (No forward in NHL history has won the Conn Smythe Trophy after failing to score in his first seven games; playoff MVP Patrick Kane went goalless through six games in 2013.)

In terms of generating offence, the gap between Marchessault, whose active nine-game point streak is the longest of any player this postseason, and the rest of the league over the past month is impossible to ignore. At 5-on-5, the Golden Knights have outscored opponents 17-5 since May 8 and 22-6 overall with Marchessault on the ice.

The key to Marchessault’s offensive explosion is his fearlessness in front of the net. He has scored nine of his 13 goals from the inner slot, tied with Matthew Tkachuk for most in the league. (Not bad for a player listed at 5-foot-9, which makes him the shortest member of the Golden Knights and taller than only two players who appeared in the playoffs this season.)

Marchessault has a knack for finding soft spots in coverage, especially in the slot. He leads the league with 29 pass receptions in that area of the ice at 5-on-5.

“I have to face his shot every day. It’s unbelievable,” Hill told reporters after Marchessault scored twice in the Golden Knights’ 7-2 win against the Florida Panthers in Game 2 of the final. “When he gets in tight, he’s probably one of the hardest guys in the league to stop. There’s a reason why he’s scoring.”

Last season, Cale Makar was the unanimous winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy, receiving all 18 first-place votes from the panel of reporters and broadcasters. That probably won’t be the case this time, but Marchessault has done more than enough to take home the prestigious award.

“Jonathan Marchessault, from Day 1, always seizes big moments,” Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon told reporters before the Stanley Cup Final. “Every day he has been in the NHL, he’s had something to prove, and that’s what makes the guy tick.”

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