Chicago Blackhawks bolster their defense, select Artyom Levshunov No. 2 overall in 2024 NHL Draft

The Chicago Blackhawks continue their rebuild by focusing on the side opposite of Connor Bedard in the 2024 NHL Draft.

With the second overall pick in the first round of Friday's NHL Draft, the Blackhawks selected Michigan State defenseman Artyom Levshunov.

Levshunov is considered the most NHL-ready player in the draft by some evaluations. He stands at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds at just 18 years old.

In his freshman season at MSU, Levshunov recorded 35 points on nine goals and 26 assists in 38 games.

Levshunov's selection marks the first selection of a 2024 NHL Draft filled with intrigue. There were plenty of questions around where the draft would go after the selection of center Macklin Celebrini at No. 1 overall.

The Blackhawks were the team that dictated that direction. 

Speaking before the NHL Awards Show Thursday, Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson said the team already knew who they were taking with the second overall pick. Of course, he wasn't about to share when he controlled the narrative. 

Discussions around the Blackhawks' strategy were multi-pronged: should Chicago opt for an NHL-ready player in Artyom Levshunov, a high-risk/high-reward player in Ivan Demidov or add leadership on the second line with center Cayden Lindstrom.

The Blackhawks and Davidson opted to strengthen the blue line in selecting Levshunov.

Already playing for Blackhawks at the NHL level are 19-year-old Kevin Korchinski, who held his own in the NHL this past season after being drafted seventh overall in 2022, Alex Vlasic, a 2019 second-round pick who rose quickly to the NHL across the past two season and Seth Jones, the established top-four veteran defenseman. 

Still to come within Chicago's system are Sam Rinzel, Wyatt Kaiser, Ethan Del Mastro and Nolan Allan. All are on the way. Levshunov's selection also gives the Blackhawks the opportunity to move one of them for a team needing to improve their defensive systems, too.

The bottom line with the Blackhawks, a team mid-rebuild, is the franchise needs an infusion of talent. Bedard, who provides the centerpiece to build around, needs help and the objective for the team has to be building around him. 

Although Levshunov isn't going to the Kane to Bedard's Toews, he could certainly be a key pieces to a defensive line that could follow the last Blackhawks' dynasty in how it built its defense.

Among its Stanley Cup teams, Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya were top-four defensemen that anchored defenses of a championship winning team.

Levshunov doesn't need to be a Keith, but he certainly followed in his footsteps. Both Levshunov and Keith played at Michigan State.

Adding Levshunov doesn't bolster the offense, but it adds a key piece to a team that just needs talent overall. It's considered a safe pick, and no one can argue against the Blackhawks going the safe route when the franchise has too many areas it needs to hit on.