Columbus Blue Jackets draft candidate at 4th overall, Artyom Levshunov could be the best player available

While I don't expect Artyom Levshunov to still be on the board when the Blue Jackets step up to the podium next month, strange things have happened at the draft before. If he's still there, new GM Don Waddell should sprint to the stage.
Michigan v Michigan State
Michigan v Michigan State / Michael Miller/ISI Photos/GettyImages
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The Blue Jackets have the luxury of an already loaded prospect pool heading into next month's draft. Which means that they're well positioned to take the best player left available to them at #4 overall - regardless their position.

If it comes down to positions, however, the Jackets need help specifically in two areas: center and defense. You never hear championship teams complaining about having too much center or defense depth, after all. This theory could tip their hand by the time they make their way to the stage at the Sphere in Las Vegas.

In the case that Artyom Levshunov gets passed up by both the Chicago Blackhawks and the Anaheim Ducks, the Blue Jackets would be wise to make this pick. I believe he's the best defenseman in the entire draft.

Levshunov is originally from Belarus, but has spent two full seasons honing his craft in North America already. As an October birthday, he's one of the oldest players eligible for this year's draft (he missed last year's cutoff by just a few weeks). Which means, he's closer to playing in the NHL than a lot of his peers.

That could be beneficial to the Blue Jackets, whose overhaul on defense is already well under way. This is a "toolsy" player who has plenty of upside, but also a relatively safe floor. He could be an excellent fit for this team.

At 6'2" and over 200 pounds, Levshunov already has a very solid pro frame that has made him an impact player as a freshman with Michigan State University.

He can play a physical game, but what makes him an obvious top-5 prospect for this upcoming draft, is his offensive game. He's a very good skater and an intelligent player, which makes him dangerous in transition and off the rush.

He can thread passes, has the big shot, and has done nothing but improve over each of the last two seasons. Like a lot of other young offensive minded defensemen, he'll need to learn to be more consistent on the defensive side of the puck - but he's already shown massive improvements in that department in his two years in North America.

On page 2, let's talk about his potential and why this pick makes sense for the Jackets.