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Blackhawks items from 2024 NHL Scouting Combine: Artyom Levshunov makes strong impression

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — The 2024 NHL Scouting Combine is officially in the books after a week-long event in Buffalo.

For Chicago, most of the attention was on defenseman Artyom Levshunov, who's in the conversation to be taken with the No. 2 overall selection. Chicago Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson, chief scout Mike Doneghey and head USA scout Rob Facca all watched his 30-minute fitness portion intently from the back row of LECOM Harborcenter.

According to Levshunov, the Blackhawks were the only team to take him out to dinner this week, which apparently went well.

"It was cool," Levshunov said smiling. We had some good conversations. It was a fun time. We had some fun there." 

Then the jokester in him kicked in as he let out a big laugh: "Had some couple beers. No, no, no. Yeah, just it was a good time."

If you couldn't tell already, Levshunov is as likeable as a prospect as there is in the 2024 class. He shook every reporter's hand before his interview, had the media laughing quite a bit, and oozes positivity.

If the Blackhawks like what Levshunov brings on the ice, I'm sure they love his off-ice personality that goes with it as well. Levshunov has no idea whether he will be picked by Chicago or not.

"Any team would be good for me," Levshunov said. "I just wanted to be drafted. Any team that has a good organization, they try to care about their players. I just want to be in the NHL someday. It’s my dream to play there."

Levshunov hasn't decided yet whether he'll be returning to Michigan State for his sophomore season or turn pro. That's going to be a conversation between himself and the team that drafts him.

"We'll see," Levshunov said. "It's possible. After the draft, we'll see what team picks me and we'll decide after the draft."

Here are some other quick-hitting items from the weekend:

  • Levshunov officially measured in at 6-foot-1.75 and 205 pounds. He was previously listed at 6-foot-2, 208 pounds. He's a horse.
  • Levshunov was asked which player was the hardest to defend in college hockey this season. He listed Blackhawks prospect Frank Nazar as one of the names, along with Nazar's Michigan teammate Gavin Brindley: "They’re like small guys, smaller guys than me. It’s a little harder to play against them because I’m taller, they’re smaller. There’s a lot of good players in college hockey."
  • Macklin Celebrini was asked the same question, and he said Levshunov was one of the toughest players he's ever gone up against. High praise from the consensus No. 1 overall pick in 2024.
  • Speaking of Celebrini, it's no secret that San Jose is going to take him with the first overall pick. And while the media circus hasn't been the same, Connor Bedard knows what Celebrini is going through. Bedard reached out to Celebrini a while back and offered to serve as a sounding board if Celebrini needed it as he tried to navigate being in the spotlight all year long.

    "I talked to him a little bit," Celebrini said. "He's a friend that we kind of grew up a little bit together. At the start of this year, he reached out and said if there's anything I need or anything I need help with let him know. He's there if I have any questions, but I haven't had to use him very much."
  • Ivan Demidov, who's also part of the discussion for No. 2 overall, was not at the Scouting Combine. None of the Russian players were. Agent Dan Milstein is scheduled to hold a showcase in Florida before the draft, and that's where the Blackhawks will be able to meet with Demidov and gather their final pieces of information on him. 
  • One of the wildcards in the 2024 NHL Draft is two-way center Cayden Lindstrom, who's a Top 5 talent but dealt with multiple injuries this past season, which most notably included a back ailment. The main question he probably got from teams during his interview was his medical history and whether there are any concerns about it moving forward.

    Lindstrom said he's progressing nicely and doesn't appear to be concerned: "I'm feeling great. I'm working out probably six times a week, skating three or four times a week. Everything's going well. I'm healing up pretty quickly."
  • And finally, here's something that made me laugh. Chicago Steel forward Michael Hage — a projected first-round selection who could be a potential option for the Blackhawks at No. 18 overall — said he met with 31 of 32 NHL teams this week.

    The only one who didn’t interview him? The Tampa Bay Lightning. That's because they don't pick until the fourth round this year.

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