Names To Know: Artyom Levshunov Possesses Poise, Maturity, And An NHL-Ready Game

By Dan Dukart on May 13, 2024 at 1:45 pm
Michigan State University defenseman Artyom Levshunov
Jovanny Hernandez / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

Welcome to the second installment of our “Names To Know,” 2024 edition, a look-ahead at prospects who the Columbus Blue Jackets could select in the upcoming NHL Draft.

Earlier today, our Will Chase profiled the first player in our series, defenseman Zeev Buium from the University of Denver. Now, a look at Michigan State University defender Artyom Levshunov.

The 6'2", 208 lb. right-shot defenseman simply checks boxes. He's physical, imposing, calculated, and impactful. As the third-youngest player in the NCAA this season, he tallied an impressive 9-26-35 for the Spartans. The Belarusian was the clear number-one defenseman on a team that was among the top-ranked teams, a steadying force among a grouping of veteran players.

From The Athletic's Corey Pronman:

Levshunov was the best defenseman in the Big Ten this season and a big part of Michigan State being a top team. He is extremely skilled and creative, both as a puck-handler and passer. He has the hands of a top offensive defenseman and looks very comfortable with the puck. He skates well and can play an up-tempo style in how he attacks with his skill. He has the offensive sense to potentially run a PP1 in the NHL and has a good point shot, too. His defensive play doesn't stand out as much, particularly because he tries to attack so much, but he can make stops due to his athleticism and has physicality in his game. He is too aggressive at times, and plays like a forward too much for some scouts' liking. He makes enough stops to ease most evaluators' concerns given how much offense he brings. He has the potential to be an impact NHL defenseman who scores at a premium level.

In watching him play across the Big 10 this season, there were games where he didn't stand out. Not necessarily in a bad way, but in the way in which you hope to not notice your favorite football team's offensive line. ESPN wrote that "his ability to dictate the pace of the game from the back end is (a) rare gift, and a hallmark of nearly all Cup contenders: Cale Makar, Luke (sic) Hughes, Victor Hedman and Adam Fox all come to mind as players of that ilk". I wouldn't go that far, personally. Meanwhile, Pronman compares him to Noah Dobson. Like many young defenders, he sometimes struggled with gap control, which has plagued David Jiricek since he was drafted. There are a lot of rhymes between Jiricek and Levshunov - both are imposing right-shot defenders with tools that are hard to ignore but lack the high-end offense provided by other defenders in the draft.

What I appreciate most about Levshunov's game is his maturity. He's talented enough to be flashier than he is but instead plays a calculated and steady game. He isn't the most elusive puck carrier, but he gets around the ice fine and is more than comfortable making plays. I'm not sure he's a PP1 QB, but it also wouldn't surprise me if he develops into that over time. Instead, he's a 'put in in pen' 20 minute-per-night defenseman with top-pairing upside. In my viewings, I see him more like an Alex Pietrangelo than the aforementioned defensemen. By all accounts, he is a physical specimen who is obsessed with improving his game. 

Unfortunately, that player type is unlikely to make it all the way to number four. Most preliminary mock draft projections have Levshunov slated to go second or third, just ahead of the Blue Jackets.

Mock Draft Results
ESPN 2nd
My NHL Draft 4th
Tankathon 3rd 2nd, 2nd
The Athletic 3rd
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