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Picking Artyom Levshunov at #2? So Far, the Cup Final Backs It



Aaron Ekblad iced Game Two of the Stanley Cup Final with an empty net goal in what was a stifling defensive performance by the Florida Panthers. So as the Chicago Blackhawks purportedly are looking at picking Artyom Levshnov over Ivan Demidov, maybe building blue line out is the best road to the Stanley Cup.

It’s not to say that Demidov isn’t a smart pick or necessarily the wrong one. Obviously his talent speaks for itself. But if indeed the Blackhawks are leaning toward the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, it may end up paying dividends not only next season but for many more to come.

Ekblad, like Artyom Levshunov, Was A Top Pick

Ekblad was Florida’s top pick back in 2014 in a draft that included two of his current teammates chosen in the top five. Who else? How about Leon Draisaitl, taken third overall  and William Nylander taken at eighth overall.

The point of this? Showing that offensive talent was all over that board and the Panthers went with who they felt was still the best player available–Ekblad.

His numbers haven’t been as eye popping as what Draisaitl has done for obvious reasons, but the former has been bottled up by the latter’s team so far. As for Sam Bennett, and Sam Reinhart, both were traded to Florida from their original teams. Ekblad, meanwhile, has been a foundational piece for the team that drafted him back in 2014.

A steady, strong defenseman that Florida hoped to build its team around was precisely what they received. Ekblad was a top pairing defenseman and has been throughout his tenure in Florida.

The success took time–but look at what they have now. In that ironic turn, the Panthers would end up with the other two players they considered taking in 2014, too.

The old cliche reminds that defense wins championships and hockey is no different. While Ekblad is a different molding of a defenseman than Levshunov, the same principle applies here. If indeed general manager Kyle Davidson goes with Levshunov second overall, he creates a blue line that could be one of the most formidable units in the league.

How could it look if Artyom Levshunov is offered a contract and breaks camp with the team? The six defensemen would be Levshunov, Kevin Korchinski, Alex Vlasic, Seth Jones, Connor Murphy, and Ethan Del Mastro. Perhaps a signing or trade alters that slightly.

And yes, I’m putting Del Mastro on the list because I think he’s up with the Blackhawks for good next season.

Give it a few years and likely Davidson adds some snarl and more depth to the blue line. Suddenly, there’s a very interesting situation developing for the Blackhawks. The hope of course being what Florida received–a foundational piece that helps them to the Stanley Cup Final.

That remains to be seen. But it sure seems like a smart move.

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