On Sunday night, Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche became the eighth former college hockey player to win the Conn Smythe Award, given annually to the MVP during the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs. Makar did so by notching a stunning 29 points in 20 games en route to a Stanley Cup win. Those 29 points ranked third among all skaters in the postseason.
Makar's dominance this spring got us thinking about the other former college hockey players to take home the Conn Smythe.
There was Duncan Keith posting 21 points in 23 games in the Blackhawks' race to the Stanley Cup in 2015 — the franchise's third championship since 2010. In Chicago's run in 2010, it was Jonathan Toews, the North Dakota product, taking the Conn Smythe Trophy home with 29 points in 22 games.
In 2011 and 2012, it was a pair of netminders stealing the show and leading their respective teams to Stanley Cup final wins.
Tim Thomas was outstanding in backstopping the Boston Bruins past the Vancouver Canucks in the summer of 2011. He posted a .940 save percentage and 1.98 goals against average, with both numbers leading all starting goalies in each category. He even posted a shutout in Game 7 of the final.
Jonathan Quick followed up Thomas' performance by putting up numbers even more mind-boggling in 2012. The UMass product posted a .946 save percentage and a 1.41 GAA to earn the Conn Smythe and take the No. 8 seed Kings to the top of the hockey world. With that incredible GAA, Quick's run ranks as one of the best by a goalie in NHL playoff history.
Although there was an 11-year gap in between former college hockey players winning the Conn Smythe, Joe Nieuwendyk did so in 1999, posting 11 goals and 21 points in 23 games to lead the Dallas Stars to a Stanley Cup victory.
Brian Leetch was outstanding during the New York Rangers' run to the Stanley Cup in 1994. The Boston College product led the entire league in postseason points (34) and assists (23). Those numbers would be terrific for anyone, but Leetch was a defenseman, making it all the more impressive.
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In 1971, Ken Dryden posted one of the greatest and most improbable playoff runs for a goalie ever. Dryden, in his first season and having only six regular season games under his belt, successfully led the Canadiens through the playoff gauntlet, taking down the mighty Bruins in seven games, the Minnesota North Stars in six and then the Chicago Black Hawks in seven to win the Cup.
Today, college hockey is churning out top-tier NHL talent every season. It's no coincidence that in the last 12 years, five former college hockey stars took home Conn Smythe trophies. It wouldn't be crazy to think that number will grow quite a bit over the next 12.
Here's a full list of all the former college hockey players who've won the Conn Smythe:
|PLAYER||Year||NHL TEAM||COLLEGE||COLLEGIATE YEARS PLAYED|
|Cale Makar||2022||Colorado Avalanche||UMass||2017-19|
|Duncan Keith||2015||Chicago Blackhawks||Michigan State||2001-03|
|Jonathan Quick||2012||Los Angeles Kings||UMass||2005-07|
|Tim Thomas||2011||Boston Bruins||Vermont||1993-97|
|Jonathan Toews||2010||Chicago Blackhawks||North Dakota||2005-07|
|Joe Nieuwendyk||1999||Dallas Stars||Cornell||1984-87|
|Brian Leetch||1994||New York Rangers||Boston College||1986-87|
|Ken Dryden||1971||Montreal Canadiens||Cornell||1967-69|
For a complete year-by-year list of all Conn Smythe winners, click here.