The Chicago Blackhawks finally have a chance to meet with top draft prospect Ivan Demidov

The Russian prospect is stateside for a mini-combine set up by his agent.
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Chicago Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson has a big decision to make with the No. 2 overall pick in the NHL Draft at the end of the month.

Michigan State defenseman Artyom Levshunov seems to be the popular pick among mock drafts.

It makes sense for the Hawks to go with a blueliner considering their crop of defensive prospects have graduated from that status (Kevin Korchinski and Alex Vlasic) or are on their way toward leaving that label behind with the team needing to replace three veterans (Wyatt Kaiser, Isaak Phillips, and possibly Ethan Del Mastro).

That leaves Nolan Allen and Sam Rinzel as the only true blue-chip prospects the Hawks have at defensemen.

However, Russian forward Ivan Demidov is considered to be one of the best offensive players in this draft after Macklin Celebrini. Even more important is Demidov has a higher ceiling than Levshunov. If Demidov reaches his full potential, that will mean the Hawks will have a superstar to pair up with Connor Bedard for a decade or more.

The hard part for the Blackhawks is Russia has been tough to scout since it has been isolated from the hockey world after the invasion of Ukraine. Thankfully, agent Dan Milstein has arranged a mini-combine for his Russian clients. That means Davidson will have sat down with Demidov by now.

Hockey intelligence, competitiveness, and character are three of the four traits the Blackhawks look for in a prospect. Speed is the other trait. Demidov is nursing an injury, so the Hawks did not get a chance to see him skate. The Hawks could probably have contracted a scout or can find some tape somewhere to assess his skating ability. The interview is valuable as it can gauge the other three traits.

Demidov has confirmed he is aiming toward coming over after his KHL contract expires after the 2024-25 season.

That addresses the concern that he will stay in Russia for a couple more seasons as some of his fellow countrymen have been known to do.

He would be starting his entry-level deal as Bedard's wraps up. That is the chance to add a forward with major upside on a cheap deal as the Hawks get ready to pay Bedard.

Speaking of Connor, Demidov was very complimentary of Bedard's game.

The Blackhawks are very much in the same situation the Pittsburgh Penguins were in 20 years ago. The Pens had the No. 2 overall pick with a decision to make between Evgeni Malkin or the field. The Penguins went with Malkin and then got lucky in the 2005 Draft Lottery to get the rights to the No. 1 overall pick and Sidney Crosby.

Those two paired up to win three Stanley Cups and become NHL icons. The Hawks already have Bedard to fill the Crosby role. Demidov has the talent to impact the Blackhawks like Malkin has done for the Penguins.

Ironically, the Hawks picked third in that draft and took defenseman Cam Barker who had an NHL career, but it did not last long. That is not to say Levshunov will end up being like Barker. Levshunov has plenty of upside and his joining Michigan State impacted that program beyond anyone could dream.

It is an interesting decision Davidson has to make, but today he got some more data points to make an informed decision.