Friday, June 28, 2024

Blackhawks Select Artyom Levshunov No. 2 Overall


Given that San Jose selecting Macklin Celebrini first overall was merely a formality, the 2024 NHL Draft truly began with the Blackhawks’ No. 2 overall pick. Throughout much of the pre-draft process, Chicago and GM Kyle Davidson were mostly tasked with deciding between two blue-chip prospects in Michigan State defenseman Artyom Levshunov and Russian forward Ivan Demidov.

When Davidson and other Blackhawks personnel took the stage at the Sphere in Las Vegas Friday night, they announced that Levshunov would be headed to Chicago.

Levshunov was a star at Michigan State last season, logging nearly a point per game in his freshman year while successfully fending off attacks from some of the best forwards in the country in the Big Ten. He hasn’t yet made a decision on whether he’ll return to East Lansing this fall, or if he’ll come directly to the Blackhawks.

Widely regarded as the best defenseman in this year’s draft class, Levshunov is a big-bodied blueliner with excellent offensive abilities. He has a unique ability to find passing and shooting lanes that others can’t see, moving the puck and finding his teammates efficiently. With a ranging reach and good defensive mobility, Levshunov can get to and make nearly every defensive play.

As Chicago’s highest pick on their blue line, he’s expected to lead the new influx of top-tier talent for years to come. He’ll pair well with players like Kevin Korchinski, Alex Vlasic and others as they turn the Blackhawks’ defensive unit from the laughingstock of the league to a formidable group.

The Blackhawks’ decision was far from a no-brainer, as Demidov would have certainly been a popular pick for Chicago as well. He’s considered the second-best forward in this class and is best known for his creativity on the ice, constantly finding new ways to set up his teammates and create shots for himself.

It seemed Levshunov was able to get a leg up on Demidov at the NHL Draft Combine earlier this month because the latter wasn’t able to participate as a Russian prospect. When he was interviewed, Levshunov revealed that he had spoken with Blackhawks personnel numerous times and that they had even taken him out to dinner that week.

The draft board shakes out perfectly for the Blackhawks after taking Levshunov. Big, talented defensemen don’t come around every day, so to add another one to their pipeline with the No. 2 pick was a big win for the long-term goals of the rebuild, which is inching closer to completion. Now, Chicago can shift its focus to the No. 18 pick later tonight. The class is top-heavy with defensive talent and is projected to feature a run on forwards in the mid-to-late first round. With luck, the Blackhawks can pair Levshunov with a top attacker and go home happy after the first round.

The decision was far from a no-brainer for the Blackhawks, but the best defenseman in the class was too difficult to pass up at No. 2 overall. Levshunov will be a great asset as Chicago aims to build its blue line from the ground up, projecting as a top blueliner for years to come.

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