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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Artyom Levshunov probably needs one more year in the NCAA before he's ready to turn pro. That timeline may be perfect for the Blue Jackets.

This season with the Spartans, Levshunov scored 9 goals and 35 points in 38 games. He added 44 minutes in penalties and was an impressive +27. As a freshman.

That's a standout season for any defenseman - let alone an 18 year old - and he tops those numbers off with the requisite size you look for in an NHL defenseman. I think Levshunov has the potential to be a top-four defenseman in the NHL for a long time.

The best recent comparable I can think of here is New Jersey's Simon Nemec, who went second overall at the 2022 NHL Draft. Levshunov has a lot of the same traits, and I feel like his upside is similar.

At the bottom end, even if he doesn't become the player I feel he's capable of, I still think he's an NHL defenseman, who can quarterback a power-play unit. His skating and physicality means he won't hurt you in any situation - even if the offensive game doesn't fully translate.

Levshunov might not be a "generational talent" kind of player - he may not even be elite - but he's right in that next tier. I think he has the potential to be a top pairing guy, and if the Jackets wound up with him, Zach Werenski, Denton Mateychuk, and David Jiricek in their top-four in a few years, they would be in really great shape.

With all of that said, I don't see how Chicago and Anaheim both let this guy pass them by. He will likely be off the board before we get to pick.