‘Toolsy’ blueliner Artyom Levshunov is ‘a physical beast’ and should go early in 2024 NHL Draft

Photo credit:Michael Caples/MSU Athletic Communications
Ryan Pike
1 month ago
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When Brad Treliving was general manager of the Calgary Flames he was a self-avowed proponent of building through the middle, focusing on centres and defencemen when it came to developing a hockey club. That focus generally showed through in his drafting record. While Craig Conroy hasn’t been quite as open in terms of what he values in the draft, if he has a similar philosophy we could easily see one of several promising blueliners go to the Flames with their first selection in the 2024 NHL Draft.
The first blueliner selected in June could end up being Michigan State University freshman Artyom Levshunov.

Scouting report

A product of Khlobin, a city in southeastern Belarus, Levshunov is an October 2o05-born right shot defender listed at 6’2″ and 205 pounds. As an October birthday, he’s among the oldest top prospects eligible for selection for the first time in this draft class.
Levshunov came up through hockey in his home country, spending a few seasons with Team Belarus in their top domestic league. He opted to pursue his hockey dreams in North America, coming over just before his 17th birthday to join the Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League in 2022-23. He then headed to college, joining the NCAA’s Michigan State University Spartans as a freshman for the 2023-24 season.
In just his second season in North America – at a time where he’s probably still adjusting to living and playing on the smaller ice and in a completely different environment than he’s used to – Levshunov emerged as one of the most promising defenders in his age group.
Here’s how David Saad at Dobber Prospects summarized Levshunov’s season:
Levshunov finished his NCAA campaign as one of the highest scoring draft eligible defensemen in history; not bad for a kid who was playing in Belarus 2 years ago! The growth he’s made is staggering and he’s defined himself as one of the more “toolsy” players of this years draft. His combination of size, speed and skill should see him go very early on draft day; but he’s not without his concerns. Levshunov is still adjusting to the NA game, and while it has improved, the unrefined defensive game and some poor habits still plague viewings. That said, it’s very reassuring that Levshunov has shown the effort and ability to improve as the season has gone on. He’s not likely to be ready out the gate, but given some time an NHL team should be able to carve him into a top 4 defenseman with relative ease. If his offensive game can adapt or translate to the NHL, he can be headlining his franchise’s d-core for years to come.
Over at Sportsnet, their resident scout Jason Bukala had this rundown on Levshunov’s game:
Levshunov is a solid skater with room to improve his small area escapes and agility (walking the offensive blue line for example). But he doesn’t cut corners in any zone, leans on opponents, and plays with a presence. He could end up finding a home as a top pairing NHL defenceman in time.
The gist of the scouting community seems to be that they’re pretty impressed with Levshunov’s game. He’s physically mature, yes, but he’s still adjusting to the North American game and his progression over the past two seasons seems to have scouts excited about what he could become going forward.

The numbers

This past season, Levshunov had nine goals and 26 assists for 35 points over 38 games as a “true” freshman – he turned 18 in October. He was second on his team in points, trailing behind only Tampa Bay prospect Isaac Howard.
Across the entire NCAA, Levshunov was ninth among blueliners in points. Among all draft-eligible defencemen, only Denver’s Zeev Buium had more points than he did.
Levshunov was named to the Big 10 conference’s all-rookie and first all-star teams. He was named the conference’s rookie of the year and defensive player of the year. He was also named a western region second team All-American.
All-in-all, it’s hard to imagine Levshunov having a better freshman season.

Availability and fit

In terms of availability, it seems pretty probable that Levshunov goes early. He’s rated third on Daily Faceoff’s rankings, fourth on Elite Prospects’ and ninth on FC Hockey’s. Most of the scouting community seems to have him earlier than fifth across their rankings. In terms of fit, though, he feels like a Flames pick, doesn’t he? He’s a versatile, toolsy young defender who’s rapidly learned (and is still learning) the North American game.
The Flames have also added a bevy of Russian and Belarusian players in recent years, particularly blueliners, and it seems easy to imagine Levshunov getting to town and having compatriots like Yegor Sharangovich and Ilya Solovyov to mentor him – not to mention the many, many Russians in the organization.
If Levshunov fell to the Flames, he’d fit like a glove. But it seems pretty unlikely that he’ll fall to them at ninth overall.

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