Conn Smythe Trophy betting: Balancing championship probability

Andy Devlin / National Hockey League / Getty

It all looks so tantalizing when you pull up the odds on who will win the Conn Smythe Trophy.

Conn Smythe Trophy Odds

PLAYERS ODDS
Nathan MacKinnon +1200
Jonathan Huberdeau +1500
Aleksander Barkov +1500
Mikko Rantanen +1500
Auston Matthews +1700
Johnny Gaudreau +2000
Cale Makar +2000
Andrei Vasilevskiy +2000
Jacob Markstrom +2000
Sergei Bobrovsky +2500
Aaron Ekblad +2500
Darcy Kuemper +2500
Nikita Kucherov +2500
Sebastian Aho +2500
Frederik Andersen +3000
Leon Draisaitl +3000
Kirill Kaprizov +3000
Connor McDavid +3000
Mitch Marner +3000
Steven Stamkos +3000
Igor Shesterkin +3000
Matthew Tkachuk +3000
Gabriel Landeskog +3500
Marc-Andre Fleury +4000
Elias Lindholm +4000
Victor Hedman +4000
Jack Campbell +4000
Brayden Point +4000
Andrei Svechnikov +4000
Brad Marchand +5000
David Pastrnak +5000
Artemi Panarin +5000
Sidney Crosby +5000
Adam Fox +6000
Patrice Bergeron +6000
Chris Kreider +6000
Jake Guentzel +6000
Alex Ovechkin +6000
Mika Zibanejad +6000
Evgeni Malkin +6500
Vladimir Tarasenko +7500
Ville Husso +7500
John Tavares +7500
Sam Reinhart +7500
Claude Giroux +7500

*all others not listed are 75-1 or higher

What other futures market has the favorite listed at 12-1?!

How to find value

You need to start with the champion and work backward. This isn't an era where Ron Hextall or Jean-Sebastien Giguere can win from the losing side.

Let's look at the Toronto Maple Leafs as an example. They're 10-1 to win the Stanley Cup, implying they'll snap their epic drought 9% of the time this postseason plays out. Of that 9%, you then have to assign a value to each possible team MVP. Here's how that might look:

PLAYER PROBABILITY SHARE OF 9% FAIR ODDS
Auston Matthews 66% 6% 15-1
Mitch Marner 11% 1% 99-1
John Tavares 11% 1% 99-1
Jack Campbell 5% 0.5% 198-1
Morgan Rielly 5% 0.5% 198-1
Other 2% 0.2% 500-1

Matthews at 15-1 is the closest we'll get to fair value, but that's after making him 66% likely to be the Leafs' most valuable player. He was that this season, but Toronto would need an outlier performance from someone else if it wants to win the Stanley Cup. Maybe that's clutch scoring from Marner or Tavares, but it could also be a surprise string of hot goaltending performances.

More importantly, if you're looking to talk yourself into someone other than Matthews, where does that win probability come from? Marner, for example, would need to be 33% likely to be the Leafs' MVP to be worth betting at his offered price. Are you taking some off Matthews' slice of the pie? Or are you eliminating everyone not named Matthews and Marner?

What about the Cup favorite Colorado Avalanche? Oddsmakers expect them to win the Cup 22% of the time. Here's how the Avalanches' top candidates are priced and the implied probability of each hoisting the Conn Smythe.

PLAYER ODDS IMPLIED PROB.
Nathan MacKinnon +1400 6.7%
Mikko Rantanen +1600 5.9%
Cale Makar +1800 5.3%
Darcy Kuemper +2500 3.8%
Gabriel Landeskog +3300 2.9%

Those five players add up to 24.6%, which is more than 22%. Maybe you believe that one of the above should have a larger piece of the pie, but it's unlikely you're getting a good bet versus just taking Colorado outright. The same issue exists for other top contenders with depth like the Panthers, Lightning, and Bruins.

Best bets

Connor McDavid (+3000)

This is a decent bet if you believe McDavid will win a Stanley Cup at some point in his career. You might be willing to bet this every season for the next 20 years, knowing that it'll be profitable when he does it. As long as McDavid's odds (30-1) at winning the Conn Smythe are even the slightest percentage longer than the Edmonton Oilers' odds of winning the Cup (18-1), he's a good value.

Sidney Crosby won the Conn Smythe in 2017 when he scored just eight goals, and he didn't lead the Pittsburgh Penguins in points that postseason. There's a zero percent chance that voters will look elsewhere if the Oilers win the Cup and McDavid posts even modest stats. Of course, if Edmonton wins it all, it'll be because he was outstanding.

Matthew Tkachuk (+3000)

Flash goes a long way with voters in other sports, especially in the small sample sizes of the NBA Finals and Super Bowl. In the NHL, grit is a hit over the long grind of the playoffs.

Markstrom and Gaudreau have shorter odds, as a goaltender and leading scorer often do on a contender. The Calgary Flames' best chance to win the whole thing comes from Tkachuk being a force up front. Players combining size and skill get a lot of attention from the media as a difference-maker in the playoffs. At 30-1, Tkachuk might get more of the probability pie than he's allotted in this market.

Kirill Kaprizov (+3300)

Sometimes betting and odds valuation comes down to name recognition. With 47 goals and 108 points, Kirill Kaprizov isn't a household name in even some of the most die-hard hockey families. However, that means his Conn Smythe price might be depressed for that exact reason.

The Minnesota Wild doesn't have a clear-cut star defenseman or a goaltender who will get a ton of voting attention should the team make a run to the Stanley Cup. Unlike past years, they're a club that prides itself on its scoring. If the Wild lift the Cup, it'll be because they outscored their opponents on the way, getting Kaprizov all the attention.

Matt Russell is a betting writer for theScore. If there's a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on Twitter @mrussauthentic.

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Conn Smythe Trophy betting: Balancing championship probability
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