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Blackhawks Select Artyom Levshunov 2nd in NHL Draft: Why They Took Him Over Ivan Demidov

Blackhawks Select Artyom Levshunov 2nd in NHL Draft: Why They Took Him Over Ivan Demidov

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LAS VEGAS – The Chicago Blackhawks’ final Stanley Cup window has closed permanently as their defense collapses.

Johnny O’Dea left in free agency. Niklas Hjalmarsson was traded. Brent Seabrook has not been able to maintain his high level physically. Duncan Keith tried to carry the load, but it was not enough as younger and older reinforcements failed to fill the gaps.

Now, after years of defensive struggles, the blue line is the first area Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson has worked to address in rebuilding the franchise. After drafting a defenseman in the first round in each of his first two drafts, Davidson made his third and most important pick on Friday when the Blackhawks took Artem Levshunov with the No. 2 pick in the 2024 NHL Draft.

Although the Blackhawks discussed internally and were very intrigued by Ivan Demidov’s potential offensive ability, Chicago selected the 6-foot-1, 205-pound Levshunov, who they believe has the size, strength and two-way upside to be the future no. 1 defender. The Blackhawks have done their homework over the past two years on Levshunov and were convinced of his potential.

“I think he has all of that potential,” Davidson said. “He’s able to lead the offense, he’s able to skate, he’s quick, he’s got good size, he’s aggressive, he’s a strong defender, and we think there’s more potential ahead of him. So, this is The potential as well as the potential growth that lies ahead – it was really interesting and we really felt it would make us a much better organization.”

Levshunov hails from Belarus and arrived in the United States ahead of the 2022-23 season. He played for the Green Bay Gamblers in the USHL in his first season, then moved on to play college hockey and was a freshman defenseman at Michigan State last season.

Mike Donegy, the Blackhawks’ director of amateur scouting, believes Levshunov has the potential to grow significantly.

“I think he’s pretty behind the curve, even though he’s a big guy,” Doneghy said. “You see him having long arms and long legs — he just hasn’t trained in North America. In August, he went to Michigan State, so he didn’t even have a varsity practice session like most kids do. I just think his ceiling is high.”

The Blackhawks have another major decision ahead of them: whether to ask Levshunov to return to Michigan State for his sophomore season or turn pro. The Blackhawks could sign Levshunov and assign him to the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL.

“I’ll probably talk to (Levshunov’s agent) Dan Milstein and give him an idea of ​​what we think is the best path but we’ll let him hear that first,” Davidson said of where Levshunov will play next season.

Regardless of what the Blackhawks envision, Levshonov also helps fill a need for right-handed defensemen within the organization. Outside of current NHL defensemen Seth Jones and Connor Murphy, the Blackhawks have only a handful of right-handed prospects. Sam Renzel, who is returning to the University of Minnesota for his sophomore season, is also right-handed.

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