- Emily Kaplan is ESPN’s national NHL reporter.
EDMONTON, Alberta — Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman won the Conn Smythe Award as the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs MVP.
Hedman, 29, scored 10 goals this summer — Paul Coffey (12) and Brian Leetch (11) are the only defenseman to ever record more. He also led the Lightning in ice time throughout the postseason, averaging more than 26 minutes a game.
Prior to this summer, Hedman had never scored more than four goals or recorded more than 14 points in one playoff run. He is the third-ever Swedish born player to win the award, following Nicklas Lidstrom (2002) and Henrik Zetterberg (2008). He is also the 10th different defenseman to win the Conn Smythe, and first since Chicago’s Duncan Keith in 2015.
“He’s a pretty determined player,” coach Jon Cooper said of Hedman last week. “He’s been nominated for four straight Norris Trophies, so he’s pretty damn good. His timing and uplifting us at these big moments when we need a boost – overtime winning goals, defensive plays he’s made – the timing of a lot of things he’s done has been remarkable. But I guess if you’re doing great things your timing is always going to be good.”
The Lightning played the entire playoffs without their captain, Steven Stamkos — except for a three minute, five-shift cameo in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final. Tampa Bay was able to persevere anyway, thanks in large part to their depth.
Hedman faced tough competition for the Conn Smythe, especially from Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point, who led the playoffs with 34 and 33 points respectively. They each had a five-point streak as the Stanley Cup Final ended, the first pair of teammates to do so since Mark Messier and Alex Kovalev for the New York Rangers in 1994.
Commissioner Gary Bettman made the announcement prior to handing the Stanley Cup to the Lightning after their 2-0 win over the Dallas Stars in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final.
“That last period was probably the longest period of my life,” Hedman said in the postgame interview on NBC. “There’s so many emotions at the same time.”
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