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Blackhawks select defenseman Artyom Levshunov with No. 2 overall pick in 2024 NHL Draft

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LAS VEGAS — The wait is over: With the No. 2 overall pick in the 2024 NHL Draft, the Chicago Blackhawks have selected two-way defenseman Artyom Levshunov.

"Finally, I’m drafted," Levshunov said. "I was waiting for this 18 years. Finally somewhere. Not somewhere — in Chicago! Feels real now. Now it feels like a dream came true. Now it feels real."

The Blackhawks heavily scouted Levshunov this season and their love for him grew over time.

"I just think the total package," Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson said of why they liked Levshunov. "Offensively, he can drive offense, he can skate, he's super mobile, he's got good size, he's aggressive, he's a physical defender and we just think there's more upside to come.

"The package as well as the potential growth left to come, it was just so intriguing and something we really felt that would just make us a much better organization."

Said Blackhawks director of amateur scouting Mike Doneghey: "You see the way he skates and the size, for a big guy to get around the ice that well, and he's very puck friendly and he's ultra competitive. He just continued to take the steps.

"Everyone thought he was going to go back to Green Bay, and then he ends up going to Michigan State and he was able to elevate his game against players that are 3, 4 and 5 years older than him and not miss a beat from the USHL. And then once you meet him off the ice, he's an engaging personality, his character, the way he treats people, it's just what we're about."

Levshunov knew the organization liked him but he wasn't sure what they were thinking when it came to the second overall pick.

Until now.

"I was thinking about them because we had good conversation with them during the season and at the combine," Levshunov said. "They came to Buffalo and our agency camp they came to talk with me, we went for lunch. There were a lot of teams, we talked with everyone. But I’m happy that Chicago picked me and I’m happy to be part of the Blackhawks."

Fittingly, Connor Bedard was introduced on stage at The Sphere and announced Levshunov as the selection. Bedard is the franchise cornerstone, and now the Blackhawks have a potential No. 1 defenseman to go with him.

"It’ll be cool," Levshunov said of Bedard. "An unreal player. He was drafted first overall last year. He’s such a good guy. It’ll be fun to play with him."

Davidson said in his pre-draft media availability on Thursday that there was "tons" of "really healthy and productive" internal debate over which direction to go. While he didn't say it publicly, the discussion all along was believed to be between Levshunov and offensive playmaking forward Ivan Demidov, and the former won out.

Levshunov, 18, turned in a sensational freshman campaign at Michigan State, where he compiled 35 points (nine goals, 26 assists) in 38 games. The season prior, he ranked third among all USHL defensemen with 13 goals and fifth with 42 points in 62 games for the Green Bay Gamblers.

Levshunov is listed at 6-foot-1.75 inches and 205 pounds and projects to be a top-pairing defenseman in the NHL. He carries a right-handed shot, too, which makes his package even more attractive. 

Off the ice, Levshunov is quickly going to endear himself to Blackhawks fans. The Belarus native has a unique personality and will likely be a locker-room favorite.

It's unclear where Levshunov will play next season, whether he will return to Michigan State for his sophomore season or turn pro and play in the AHL. The Blackhawks seem to have put some thought into that already.

"I'll probably talk with [his agent] Dan Milstein and kind of give him our idea of what we think and what we believe is the best path," Davidson said. "But we'll let him hear that first."

Levshunov instantly becomes the top prospect in Chicago's system and headlines the potential new core on the back end that includes Kevin Korchinski and Alex Vlasic.

"When I woke up just all day I was thinking about the draft, where I will be," Levshunov said. "It was actually a pretty simple day for me. I mean, not pretty simple. It was a special day for me but just, yeah, I came to the draft and was drafted. That’s it. Life goes on, right? World goes on. I’m so excited again to be part of it."

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