Tampa Bay Lightning's Victor Hedman wins Conn Smythe Trophy for MVP after historic run

EDMONTON, Alberta -- Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs MVP on Monday.

Hedman, 29, scored 10 goals this summer. Paul Coffey (12) and Brian Leetch (11) are the only defensemen to ever record more. Hedman, who also had 11 assists, led the Lightning in ice time this summer, averaging more than 26 minutes per game.

"It's been a grind. It hasn't been easy, but it's all worth it now. We're Stanley Cup champs, and we're going to be Stanley Cup champs forever," Hedman said after the Lightning defeated the Dallas Stars 2-0 in Game 6 to win the Stanley Cup Final. "It's going to be in history. Our grandkids can look at the Stanley Cup and see our names."

Prior to this summer, Hedman had never scored more than four goals or recorded more than 14 points in a postseason. He is the third Swedish-born player to win the Conn Smythe, following Nicklas Lidstrom (2002) and Henrik Zetterberg (2008). He is the 10th defenseman to win the award and the first since Chicago's Duncan Keith in 2015.

"This is not my trophy. This is everyone's trophy," Hedman said. "You could make the case for every single guy on this team. I'm obviously super proud to get the award, but the big, silver thing is the one we're after. We're going to take this to our grave. We're so happy."

The Lightning played the entire playoffs without their captain, Steven Stamkos, except for a three-minute, five-shift cameo by Stamkos in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final. Stamkos, dressed in full uniform, was still the first player to hoist the Cup, but he passed it to Hedman, an alternate captain, directly after.

"Heddy has grown as a leader," coach Jon Cooper said. "When Stammer wasn't able to be around, Heddy stepped to the forefront. To watch this guy grow, it's just remarkable. He was so deserving of the Conn Smythe, and I know Stammer is proud of him."

Said Stamkos: "To watch Heddy win that Conn Smythe, to be the best player in the world in the playoffs and to just watch a relationship grow to where it is today, it's just love and admiration."

The 2020 Conn Smythe Trophy was voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association and featured one of the tightest races ever. Hedman received nine first-place votes, with teammate Brayden Point garnering eight to finish second in the voting.

A strong case could also be made for Nikita Kucherov, who was third, and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who played in every Lightning game in the two-month tournament and recorded a shutout in Game 6.

Kucherov and Point led playoff scoring with 34 and 33 points, respectively. They each had a five-point streak as the Stanley Cup Final ended, making them the first pair of teammates to do that since Mark Messier and Alex Kovalev for the New York Rangers in 1994. Point scored the opening goal in the clinching win, his 14th of the playoffs (most of any player this summer) and third game winner. Two of his winners came in overtime.

In the postgame celebration, Hedman was effusive about his teammates, and he admitted several times that he was at a loss for words.

"I never in my dream thought I'd win the Stanley Cup," he said. "It's a dream. It's so, so unrealistic. It's what you dream of when you play on the streets back home when you grow up. It's what you imagine all the time. These last two games, they've been tough. Not just physically on the ice -- it's been tough mentally. You force yourself not to think about it, but you can't help yourself. You think about it all the time."