United States Hockey League (USHL)

Michigan State Lands 2024 NHL Draft Top Prospect Artyom Levshunov

Michigan State Lands 2024 NHL Draft Top Prospect Artyom Levshunov

Michigan State made a huge splash in the recruiting space by securing a commitment from one of the top defensemen eligible for the 2024 NHL Draft.

Jul 24, 2023 by Chris Peters
Artyom Levshunov Pops The Water Bottle

The Michigan State Spartans have apparently made a late, but massive addition to their 2023-24 men's hockey roster. The Spartans have secured a commitment from Green Bay Gamblers defenseman Artyom Levshunov, who checked in at No. 3 on FloHockey’s early top 10 for the 2024 NHL Draft. The team confirmed Levshunov’s addition in a press release welcoming its incoming class for the 2023-24 season.

The Belarusian blueliner was an All-Rookie Team selection in the USHL and was named a third-team league all-star after putting up an astonishing 42 points in 62 games in his first season in North America.    

His production last season was higher than that of Owen Power, who was the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, in his draft-minus-one season with the Chicago Steel in 2019-20. In doing so, Levshunov established himself as one of the top prospects for the 2024 NHL Draft heading into next season.

With good puck skills and mobility, Levshunov makes the most of his 6-foot-2, 200-pound frame. He can defend, play physical when he needs to and can he ever hammer the puck. Being a right-shot defenseman, which can be in such short supply, only enhances his value in the eyes of NHL evaluators.

Levshunov, who will turn 18 in October, once had eyes on going to the Canadian Hockey League, but when Canada’s major junior ranks banned the selection of Russian or Belarusian players in their import draft. 

That steered Levshunov towards the USHL and Green Bay where he thrived in big minutes and a large role despite having never played in North America before. The Gamblers also helped Levshunov with his adjustment to North America as he continued to learn English and even started learning how to drive, as he told FloHockey's Ryan Sikes last season.

He was expected to return to the Gamblers for next season, but other options emerged as he shifted his focus to playing college hockey.

Levshunov was being pursued by a number of college programs that were seeking to add him for the 2023-24 season. The big question, however, was if he would be able to establish eligibility. Players from Belarus and Russia are fairly uncommon in college hockey, but have started finding their way to the NCAA a bit more in recent years. Still, getting through the NCAA clearing house can be challenging even in the best of circumstances. 

Assuming all is good to go with Levshunov’s paperwork, the Michigan State Spartans probably just landed the biggest recruit in the brief tenure of second-year head coach Adam Nightingale.

The Spartans suddenly have one of the most exciting incoming classes of any school, especially when you include the number of high quality players added through the transfer portal.

In addition to Levshunov, the team will add incoming freshmen Trey Augustine and Maxim Strbak, both second-round selections in the 2023 NHL Draft. Among the top transfers joining the Spartans this season is sophomore forward Isaac Howard, who was drafted in the first round in the 2022 NHL Draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning, as well as junior forward Red Savage, who played in the last two World Junior Championships and is a Detroit Red Wings draft selection.

Nightingale has helped overhaul a program that was once one of the premier destinations in college hockey. Following the renovations of Munn Arena which were completed just ahead of the new head coach's arrival, Michigan State is poised to start achieving at the level they're historically used to.

By adding a player of Levshunov’s caliber, and apparently beating out rival Michigan for his services in the process, the Spartans are making a fairly emphatic declaration that they’re very much back in the game.