Chicago Blackhawks sign defenseman Artyom Levshunov to an entry-level contract

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JUNE 28: Artyom Levshunov poses for a portrait after being drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks with the second overall pick during the 2024 Upper Deck NHL Draft at Sphere on June 28, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Candice Ward/Getty Images)

The Chicago Blackhawks have signed Artyom Levshunov to an entry-level contract after taking the defenseman with the No. 2 overall pick in the NHL draft.

The team announced the three-year deal Saturday. It carries a $975,000 cap hit.

Instead of returning to Michigan State for a second season, the 18-year-old Levshunov most likely will begin his professional career with Rockford of the American Hockey League. 

He might be able to make the Blackhawks out of training camp, but the team signed veteran defensemen Alec Martinez and T.J. Brodie  on the first day of free agency. 

"Signing Artyom gives us the opportunity to continue his development in house and take the next step into professional hockey," general manager Kyle Davidson said in a release. "He's a strong two-way defenseman that has all the tools to be a high-end player in the NHL and we're excited to continue his growth at the pro level."

Levshunov had nine goals and 26 assists for Michigan State this season. He was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year.

Levshunov was the fourth overall player from Belarus selected in the first round of the NHL draft, and earliest selected after defenseman Ruslan Salei went ninth to Anaheim in 1996.