NHL Stanley Cup Final predictions: Athletic staff picks for Oilers-Panthers, Conn Smythe and more (2024)

The Athletic has live coverage of the Oilers vs. Panthers in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final

It’s been nearly 11 months since the first time The Athletic polled its NHL staff for a 2024 Stanley Cup champion.

Back then, in our “way too early predictions” just after 2023 free agency, the Carolina Hurricanes (45.2 percent of the vote) and Colorado Avalanche (16.1) were the most popular picks to win it all. Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers were at 9.7 percent, and the defending Eastern Conference champion Florida Panthers were at 0.0.

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By Nov. 11, our third staff poll for the 2024 champion, the Oilers and their 3-9-1 record had dropped to 0.0 as well, and the injury-plagued Panthers remained in the basem*nt despite an 8-4-1 start.

Seven months later, one of those two teams is about to become a champion.

So who’s our staff’s favorite now?

For the 11th time since last offseason, The Athletic polled its NHL staff this week for their favorite to win the Stanley Cup. We also asked for a Conn Smythe winner and second player to raise the Cup for each team.

Here are the results of our final predictions survey of 2023-24, with commentary, analysis and trolling from national writer Sean Gentille, analytics know-it-all Shayna Goldman and NHL betting expert Jesse Granger, as well as a look at how we’ve done so far on predictions.

Stanley Cup Final pick: Edmonton Oilers vs. Florida Panthers

Goldman: For a series that The Model™️ projects to be a 50-50 coin flip, this could go seven … but something feels fitting about six games. That is what it took each of these teams to get to the Final. Plus there will probably be a lot less clamoring if this series ends before that June 24 Game 7 date.

Granger: The most likely outcome, according to the sportsbook odds, is the Panthers winning on home ice in seven games (+400). The second most likely is the Oilers winning on home ice in six games (+450). This should be a long, entertaining series.

Conn Smythe if the Oilers win

PlayerPercent of vote

Connor McDavid

94.3%

Leon Draisaitl

2.9%

Zach Hyman

2.9%

Gentille: This would be McDavid’s even if he didn’t fully deserve it. That’s just how Conn Smythe voting tends to work. Not a big deal, though, because he’s been the best player of the postseason.

Goldman: Leon Draisaitl’s been unreal in the postseason, too, but this is McDavid’s to lose.

Granger: I totally agree with Sean, Shayna and the majority here, but if you believe in Zach Hyman, he’s currently 100-1 to win the Conn Smythe. When was the last time the leading goal scorer of the playoffs (by four goals) entering the Cup Final was that kind of a longshot?

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Conn Smythe if the Panthers win

PlayerPercent of vote

Aleksander Barkov

51.4%

Sergei Bobrovsky

20.0%

Matthew Tkachuk

17.1%

Gustav Forsling

5.7%

Carter Verhaeghe

2.9%

Connor McDavid

2.9%

Gentille: Aleksander Barkov probably locked this in during the Bruins series. I can imagine Carter Verhaeghe scoring a couple more game winners and swiping it, though.

Goldman: It’s definitely a lot harder for a defensive defenseman like Gustav Forsling to be in consideration here — especially because he’ll have the task of slowing down McDavid with Barkov — but he’s been incredible. Ultimately, only one player can get the MVP honors, though.

Granger: I wouldn’t say Sergei Bobrovsky should be the favorite, because there are so many good candidates for the Panthers, but he has stopped 27.14 goals above expected over the past two postseasons. Plus there’s the narrative of him cementing his Hall of Fame chances with a Cup after two Vezina Trophies and his career looking over less than two seasons ago.

Second player to raise the Cup if the Oilers win

PlayerPercent of vote

Leon Draisaitl

51.4%

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

37.1%

Corey Perry

8.6%

Adam Henrique

2.9%

Gentille: I’m the Henrique voter, and my logic was pretty simple: He’s old and well-liked, and giving it to him would mean McDavid doesn’t have to choose between Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Our Oilers’ beat writer, Daniel Nugent-Bowman, on why he thinks it’d be Nugent-Hopkins: No one has been through more hardship with this franchise than Nugent-Hopkins. Since being drafted No. 1 in 2011, he has played for nine coaches — 10 if interim Craig MacTavish is included. Through it all, he’s been a beloved teammate and admired by the fans. He’s someone Draisaitl calls “a coach’s favorite player” because he contributes in every facet of the game. Nugent-Hopkins is third all-time in Oilers history with 881 games played, too. This one is a no-brainer.

Goldman: I picked Draisaitl, but DNB just sold me on Nugent-Hopkins. Sometimes it doesn’t have to be the Old Guy Without A Cup — it just has to be the player who has been there through all the turmoil.

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Granger: If I had picked Draisaitl to win the Conn Smythe, I probably would’ve gone with someone else here, but as it stands I’ll go with him.

Second player (or coach) to raise the Cup if the Panthers win

PlayerPercent of vote

Sergei Bobrovsky

42.9%

Aaron Ekblad

28.6%

Kyle Okposo

22.9%

Matthew Tkachuk

2.9%

Paul Maurice

2.9%

Gentille: Gotta be Bobrovsky here, right? He’s been in South Florida for a while now, he’s dealt with a lot and it’d serve as a nice “sorry we couldn’t take care of business for you last year.”

Goldman: Aaron Ekblad’s one of the franchise cornerstones the Panthers built around, along with Barkov. Verhaeghe and Matthew Tkachuk are the Clutch Brothers who helped Florida get here. Forsling’s effectiveness has been key. There really isn’t a wrong move here, because so many players would make sense. But Bobrovsky feels like the slam-dunk pick since there isn’t any other super obvious choice.

Granger: I picked Bobrovsky here for the same reason I think he has a good chance of winning the Conn Smythe. It would be the icing on top of an incredible career.

The list of goalies he’d join with two Vezinas and a Cup over the past 40 years:

  • Dominik Hasek
  • Patrick Roy
  • Martin Brodeur
  • Ed Belfour
  • Tim Thomas

Good company.

Special guest to explain the Maurice vote, Sean McIndoe: I’m admittedly going off the grid a little bit here, picking a coach instead of a player. But there is precedent: In 2002, Detroit captain Steve Yzerman gave the first handoff to retiring coach Scotty Bowman. Yzerman had also given the 1997 handoff to owner Mike Illitch, so it’s not a hard-and-fast rule that it has to go to a player.

If the Panthers are open to thinking outside the box, then Maurice would be a great pick. He’s been doing this for almost 30 years, coaching more NHL games than anyone other than Bowman and losing in the Final twice, but he’s never won a Cup. He’d be a deserving choice.

(Besides, we already saw him order Barkov not to touch the Prince of Wales Trophy, so maybe the Panthers captain knows who makes the final call on this stuff.)

How have we done so far?

First-round series predictions

Percent of correct picksTeamTeam and games

Panthers over Lightning in 5

75.0%

6.3%

Bruins over Maple Leafs in 7

62.5%

37.5%

Rangers over Capitals in 4

96.9%

21.9%

Hurricanes over Islanders in 5

87.5%

46.9%

Stars over Golden Knights in 7

84.4%

50.0%

Avalanche over Jets in 5

59.4%

9.4%

Canucks over Predators in 6

59.4%

18.8%

Oilers over Kings in 5

100.0%

37.5%

Second-round series predictions

Percent of correct picksTeamTeam and games

Panthers over Bruins in 6

100.0%

59.4%

Rangers over Hurricanes in 6

43.8%

15.6%

Stars over Avalanche in 6

59.4%

6.3%

Oilers over Canucks in 7

93.8%

3.1%

Conference finals predictions

Percent of correct picksTeamTeam and games

Panthers over Rangers in 6

58.1%

29.0%

Oilers over Stars in 6

12.9%

3.2%

Stanley Cup predictions

Percent of vote7/1310/1011/1112/161/202/173/164/205/65/226/4

Panthers

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

6.5

17.6

37.0

3.1

18.8

16.1

80.0

Oilers

9.7

24.2

0.0

6.5

12.9

20.6

14.8

3.1

18.8

9.7

20.0

Stars

12.9

33.3

30.0

22.6

12.9

23.5

22.2

40.6

31.3

54.8

0.0

Rangers

0.0

0.0

3.3

12.9

12.9

5.9

7.4

12.5

9.4

19.4

0.0

Avalanche

16.1

6.1

16.7

32.3

19.4

14.7

11.1

12.5

15.6

0.0

0.0

Hurricanes

45.2

30.3

16.7

0.0

6.5

0.0

0.0

21.9

3.1

0.0

0.0

Canucks

0.0

0.0

0.0

3.2

3.2

2.9

0.0

0.0

3.1

0.0

0.0

Jets

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

6.5

0.0

0.0

3.1

0.0

0.0

0.0

Lightning

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

3.1

0.0

0.0

0.0

Golden Knights

6.5

0.0

30.0

12.9

12.9

2.9

3.7

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

Maple Leafs

0.0

3.0

0.0

6.5

3.2

2.9

3.7

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

Bruins

0.0

0.0

3.3

3.2

3.2

8.8

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

Kings

3.2

3.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

Devils

6.5

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

(Photo of Connor McDavid: Codie McLachlan / Getty Images)

NHL Stanley Cup Final predictions: Athletic staff picks for Oilers-Panthers, Conn Smythe and more (2024)
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