icehockey-men-d1 flag

Evan Marinofsky | | June 27, 2022

History of Conn Smythe Trophy winners for NHL playoff MVP, by college

Final minute & celebration from Denver's NCAA hockey title over Minnesota State

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. 

REPPIN' COLLEGE: Here were all the former college hockey players in the 2022 NHL playoffs

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. 

GREAT FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Check out the notable performances from recent college hockey players in the NHL

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: 

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.

Denver, Boston University rise in latest men's college hockey Power 5 rankings

North Dakota and Boston College continue to cement themselves as top dogs, while Denver and BU rise in Jordan Menard's latest Power 5 hockey rankings.

North Dakota retakes top spot in this week's men's hockey Power 5 rankings

North Dakota reclaims top spot after a dominant weekend against Miami (OH) while Wisconsin slips after a tough weekend in East Lansing. Here's what you need to know about this week's Power 5 rankings.

Maine jumps into new men's college hockey's Power 5 rankings

This week's men's college hockey Power 5 rankings see no changes within the top-3, but a solid weekend against Boston College, earns Maine a spot in the rankings.

Subscribe To Email Updates

Enter your information to receive emails about offers, promotions from and our partners