Artyom Levshunov selected No. 2 overall, highest Spartan draft pick in 36 years

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Aleesa Luecker

A freshman etching himself in Spartan history.

On Friday night, Michigan State hockey defenseman Artyom Levshunov was selected as the No. 2 overall pick by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2024 NHL draft. Levshunov became the highest drafted Spartan in 36 years. The last highest pick was Rod Brind’Amour, who was selected at No. 9 by the St. Louis Blues in 1988. The only other No. 2 pick came in 1985 when Craig Simpson was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins. 

“It feels real now,” Levshunov said in Las Vegas. “A dream come true.”

When Levshunov was brought in by MSU head coach Adam Nightingale last July, there was already a lot of buzz around the young blueliner with predictions of him going first round. Now, after a 35 point season, the Big Ten Freshman and Defenseman of the Year has made it to the big leagues and he recognized what Michigan State did for his development.

“I think we had a really great season,” Levshunov said, discussing the Spartans’ past season. “For me, for our team, for our organization, for our university. I mean it was incredible.”

Aleesa Luecker

Levshunov is joining a Blackhawks team on a rebuild. Last year Chicago had the first pick in the draft taking Connor Bedard, who was named the Calder Trophy winner by the NHL for his rookie season. Bedard was, in fact, the one who announced Levshunov’s name in the Sphere on Friday night. 

“[Bedard is] such an unbelievable player,” Levshunov said. “It will be fun to play with him.”

The Blackhawks, a team that has been gathering young and talented players with veterans to help them, seems like the ideal place for Levshunov, considering how similar it is to the Spartan squad he joined in the summer of 2023. Along with Bedard, University of Michigan star Frank Nazar and Notre Dame captain Landon Slaggert have joined the Blackhawks. Levshunov inserts himself into an elite group of players that will be a large part of the franchise’s rebuild. Levshunov is the defenseman to join this squad.

“I was thinking about them because we had a good conversation with them through the season,” Levshunov said. “I’m happy that Chicago picked me.”

Aleesa Luecker

This milestone for Levshunov was bittersweet for him after his father passed away during the COVID-19 pandemic before he came to play hockey in North America. He was able to share the moment with his mother and siblings, but recognized that this was something him and his father dreamed of. 

“I think he’s supposed to be here for this day,” Levshunov said. “He told me just be yourself and stay strong and you will be good.”

Always with a smile, Levshunov showed his excitement to join the league, but he has not yet announced his plans for the next hockey season and is still deciding whether he will head back to East Lansing or leave the NCAA and join the Blackhawks for their next season. 

“We’ll see,” Levshunov said. “I’ll go for development camp and we will see after.”