The 2024 Upper Deck NHL Draft will be held June 28-29 at Sphere in Las Vegas. The first round will be June 28 (7 p.m. ET; ESPN, ESPN+, SN, TVAS) and round 2-7 are on June 29 (11:30 ET; ESPN+, NHLN, SN, SN1). NHL.com is counting down to the draft with in-depth profiles on top prospects, podcasts and other features. Today, a profile on defenseman Artyom Levshunov of Michigan State University of the Big 10. NHL.com's full draft coverage can be found here.

There's an art in perfecting the role of a defensive-defenseman or offensive-defenseman.

Artyom Levshunov offers some of each, which is why NHL scouts and personnel converged on the campus of Michigan State University this season to witness the impressive progression of the freshman right-handed shot.

"He is the most complete package for a defenseman," NHL Central Scouting director Dan Marr said. "He's just a beast physically. ... He's got the right kind of confidence. He's not cocky, he's just really motivated.

"I spent a lot of time with Artyom early in the year and every game at Michigan State, you're talking 50-plus NHL personnel. The game I was there, I walked around, did a head count and it was 56, and that included two general managers. He really got a lot of people talking about him."

Levshunov (6-foot-2, 205 pounds) was named Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year and earned spots on the All-Big 10 First Team and All-Freshman Team.

"He's a player who can be defensive and also bring offense and I think that's why he brings so much value," Michigan State coach Adam Nightingale said. "He's very gifted offensively. He's very good on the power play, he's got deception, he can shoot through screens and put it on guys' tape.

"But he really values defending. He's not perfect since it's a position (where) you need to grow, but I think that he's got his head in the right spot. He wants to play in the NHL and wants to play meaningful minutes, and to play meaningful minutes you've got to do it on both sides of the puck."

The 18-year-old was the third-youngest player in men's college hockey and ranked second nationally among freshmen at his position and tied for 10th among all defensemen with 35 points (nine goals, 26 assists) in 38 games. The right-handed shot led the Big 10 with a plus-27 rating and played on a top defense pair all season.

"I like his control of the game; he manages the game in every area," TSN resident director of scouting, NHL analyst and former NHL general manager Craig Button said. "I don't think he's going to be an 80-point offensive defenseman, but he's going to be a 24-minute defenseman who can contribute offensively and on the penalty kill, and is going to be involved in the critical areas.

"I don't see [Levshunov] as a No. 1, but I see him clearly as a top pair defenseman in the National Hockey League. He doesn't do it with a lot of flash but he's incredibly smart and understands how to play a composed, poised game."

Levshunov is No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters and could be the first defenseman chosen in the 2024 Upper Deck NHL Draft. The San Jose Sharks hold the No. 1 pick, the Chicago Blackhawks have the No. 2 pick, and the Anaheim Ducks own the No. 3 selection.

Levshunov had 17 club interviews at the NHL Scouting Combine and also had a dinner engagement with the Blackhawks managerial team.

He could become the first Belarus-born player chosen among the top 5 in the draft. The two highest ever selected were defenseman Ruslan Salei (Anaheim Ducks, No. 9 in 1996 NHL Draft) and forward Andrei Kostitsyn (Montreal Canadiens, No. 10, 2003).

"It would be really cool for me and my country if I was the first Belarussian taken in the draft," Levshunov said. "I think any team will be good for me but it's actually insane to think about."

Levshunov had 42 points (13 goals, 29 assists) in 62 games with Green Bay of the United States Hockey League in 2022-23 when he was named to the USHL All-Rookie Team and the Third All-Star Team. He hasn't been home since leaving for Green Bay in the summer of 2022, but speaks with his family often.

"I think when I first came to America it was difficult," Levshunov said. "I had to learn new things, new people, a new language, and new culture. On the ice, it was a different style of hockey than back home; it was difficult. But two years in, I like it here."

Levshunov's father died two years ago at the age of 46 due to heart complications from COVID-19. His mother, Inna, and brother, Kirill, have been following Artyom's progress from afar.

"I had a lot of good memories of my father; he supported my hockey career and taught me how to fish, something I still do today," Levshunov said. "My mom works as an engineer and my brother played hockey, served in the Belarus military, and is now married and a hockey coach for kids in Belarus."

Levshunov looks to become only the third player from Michigan State to be selected among the top three picks in the draft. Forward Joe Murphy went No. 1 to the Detroit Red Wings in 1986, and forward Craig Simpson went No. 2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1985.

"One thing that's really unique about Artie is he wants to be coached and never acts like he has all the answers," Nightingale said. "I'm a big believer in that good teams are player-led and guys will say something to him and he listens and respects that. He's passionate about getting better."

Levshunov said he enjoyed going toe-to-toe against Macklin Celebrini in the USHL in 2022-23, when the latter starred for Chicago. In seven games against Celebrini, the Boston University center who is projected to be the No. 1 pick in the 2024 draft, Levshunov had three assists and 20 shots on goal. Celebrini had 10 points (six goals, four assists) and 22 shots in those seven games.

"He's a really good, skilled player with good hockey IQ," Levshunov said. "I played hard against him in the USHL ... I hit him every time we played against each other. I like to play against those good players and compete hard."

Depending on where each player is selected in the draft, it could be the start of an intriguing head-to-head battle over the next decade in the NHL.

"Right now, all I want to get is one percent better every day," Levshunov said. "[Celebrini's] a really good player but we'll see how the draft shakes out."

Levshunov hasn't made a decision on if he'll return to Michigan State in 2024-25.

"We've talked about it but I think just so much is up in the air right now," Nightingale said. "It depends on who drafts him and where he goes and what their plan is. I think he really likes it here, though. I think he knows he's gotten better, and he knows the support he has. He's enjoyed school and enjoyed the community. So I think just having some patience and then once the draft happens, I think we'll know a little bit more.

"There are nights for sure when you watch him, he looks NHL-ready. I mean, you look at him, he's smart, can skate well, is physical, strong. I think the consistency piece probably still needs to be refined. I've told him, 'You want to be a guy who can play 22-to-24 minutes, whatever the team needs. That's kind of what an NHL team is looking for in the NHL draft.'"

Related Content