For General Manager Kyle Davidson and the Blackhawks, the past three first rounds of the NHL Draft have gone as close to script as they could hope for.

On Friday night, the team called another three names in the opening round from Sphere in Las Vegas, continuing to stockpile high-end talent as the team continues to rebuild the roster — three names that Davidson and director of amateur scouting Mike Doneghey had high on the team’s draft board.

With the second overall pick, Chicago took what many believe to be the best defenseman in the draft, Artyom Levshunov out of Michigan State — a high-ceiling prospect, in Davidson’s eyes. They then selected Sacha Boisvert at No. 18 overall from of the USHL’s Muskegon Lumberjacks — a gritty, yet offensively skilled forward, what Davidson described as an appealing combination.

But Chicago wasn’t done there, trading back into the first round for the No. 27 overall selection — sending both their second rounders (No. 34 and No. 50) to Carolina in exchange. There, they went with another forward: Marek Vanacker from the OHL’s Brantford Bulldogs, the same team the Blackhawks selected Nick Lardis from a year ago.

“It never ceases to amaze me,” Doneghey said of Davidson’s ability to round up top-end picks three years in a row. “We start the day with [no draft picks] in Montreal, two last year and only two this year, and he finds a way to get myself and our staff the players that we like, the players that we want. That's what he did tonight.”

“It's very cliche to say we targeted all these guys that we wanted, but it's very much true,” reflected Davidson, disclosing that the team intended to try and move back into the first round before arriving in Vegas. “After year one, I thought, 'OK, we can get all the guys we wanted.' And then last year, we got all the guys we wanted. And then this year, I thought, 'There's no way it's going to work out again.' And it just did.

“We’ll see if we're right. I'm not saying we've got this all figured out, but just to set a plan in motion, and then to be able to execute on that plan, when so much of it is out of your control, it's really exciting.”

That last thought is a crucial one: the Blackhawks know that, odds are, some of their league-leading eight first-round picks, the most of any team in a three-year stretch in almost 50 years, and 20 total selections over the last three years might not pan out, but they’re stacking the odds with as many players near the top of the draft as they can — where the chances of finding an NHL-caliber star are significantly higher.

“They're not all going to make it, right?” Doneghey added. “He's just trying to enhance the odds, getting more picks, especially higher picks, to give ourselves a better chance and the kids will determine who plays and who doesn’t.”

General Manager Kyle Davidson meets with reporters following the first round

In Levshunov, while the rest of the hockey world was split on whether Chicago should take the Belarusian defenseman or Russian winger Ivan Demidov, the Blackhawks saw a total package in Levshunov they just couldn’t deny.

In just his second season in North America, the blueliner made waves as a freshman at Michigan State. He helped lead the Spartans to both the regular season and tournament championships in the Big10, finishing second on the team with 26 assists and 35 points. Among all NCAA defensemen, he shared ninth in points. And he did so making a late decision to enroll in college in August, leaving the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers, where he was named to the All-Rookie Team a year prior.

“You see the way he skates and the size for a big guy to get around the ice that well. He's very puck friendly, he's ultra competitive and then he just continued to take the steps (in his development),” Doneghey explained. “He ends up going to Michigan State, and he was able to elevate his game against players that are three, four and five years older than him and not miss a beat from the USHL (the year before). And then once you meet him off the ice, he's an engaging personality, his character, just the way he treats people -- it's just what we're about.”

“He can drive offense. He can skate. He's super mobile. He's got good size. He's aggressive. He's a physical defender,” Davidson said. “We just think there's more upside to come. The package as well as the potential growth left to come was just so intriguing and something we really felt would just make us a much better organization.”

Levshunov, who is still gaining comfort with the English language, summed up his excitement succinctly: “I can’t wait to get to Chicago.”

Artyom Levshunov meets with reporters after being taken No. 2 overall by the Blackhawks

Heading into the draft, the Blackhawks knew at No. 18 that Boisvert was on a very short list of names they hoped to still see on the board as they went on the clock a second time.

“He's had two productive seasons in Muskegon,” Davidson explained of the reasoning. “He put up some good numbers in the USHL, which is traditionally not the easiest league to put offense up in. And then just the physical package -- you see him and there's so much room to fill out, so much room for growth. He plays with a real edge and real physicality. There's a lot of appeal around both the offensive side and then the abrasiveness that he plays with.”

“If you look back at the Kyle Connors and the Brock Boessers and those guys,” Doneghey added, “those are similar numbers to what he had. He's got size down the middle, he can skate and he can compete. He's good on faceoffs. And he's just a fantastic kid.”

Boisvert, who is headed to North Dakota in the fall to play college hockey where Blackhawks greats Jonathan Toews and Troy Murray laced up their skates, says he felt several strong pre-draft conversations with Chicago set his sights on potentially joining their lineage.

“I can’t even describe it, it’s great,” he said. “The best feeling I’ve ever had… just super excited. Original six (team) and couldn't ask for any better scenario.”

Sacha Boisvert after being selected No. 18 overall by the Blackhawks

All night, Davidson was working the phones, trying to find the right place to squeeze back into the first round for one final pick. Chicago held the second pick in the second round, but as the picks in the mid-to-late 20s rolled by, he knew he’d regret not finding the right move if Vanacker went off the board before Chicago’s next pick on Saturday morning.

“We liked him enough where it was necessary to do that,” he said of parting with the team’s two second-round selections. “We don't think he would have been there at 34. We just had him high enough on the list, enough value in him as a player, where it was a no-brainer to try and move up, even though it was seven spots.”

The Blackhawks had an extra look at Vanacker over the last two seasons — as they scouted 2023 third-round pick Nick Lardis heading into last summer, and then while following Lardis’ development over the last year.

“He really got opportunity when Nick Lardis got hurt (earlier this season), and he kind of filled the Nick's role,” Doneghey explained. “He can score -- 38 goals. From the top of the circles down along the boards and net front, he's the first guy in, he controls the play, controls the puck, ultra competitive and he can score.”

“I think you watch his game and he just plays so hard,” Davidson added, noting that the first time he saw Vanacker play, he had traveled to check up on Lardis right as he got injured. “He gets his nose into every battle. He's not afraid of scores greasy goals. And I believe this game is extremely translatable to the pro level, I think he could play that way at any level, and have an impact.”

Vanacker is coming off an injury of his own, undergoing surgery nearly a month ago to repair an injury suffered back in November — one he played through all season without missing a game. But hearing his name called late on Friday night is something he’ll never forget.

“Honestly kind of speechless,” he said. “Just an amazing feeling, something I've worked towards my whole life. To have this happen on this night is super surreal.”

Marek Vanacker after being selected No. 27 overall in the 2024 NHL Draft

Chicago holds four picks in the remaining rounds of the 2024 NHL Draft, which continues on Saturday beginning at 10:30 a.m. CT (NHL Network, Sportsnet).