There’s a lot of talk about Buffalo Sabres goaltending, but it’s prospect goalie Devon Levi who is making lots of ears perk up.
The Sabres have had issues in goal this season and they’ve only gotten worse thanks to new injuries to Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and Malcolm Subban. They joined Craig Anderson and Dustin Tokarski on the shelf, which has fans looking to the future for the team and in goal.
There was already a lot of attention on Luukkonen and, to a lesser degree, University of Michigan’s Erik Portillo but it’s Levi, a sophomore at Northeastern, who is having the best season of them all and giving fans more hope for a rock-solid future between the pipes.
Levi was acquired in the Sam Reinhart trade to the Florida Panthers, but he was the secondary part of the deal because the Sabres got a first-round pick from Florida as well. We’ll find out what Buffalo gets for that pick in the summer, but Levi has become a player with serious interest with how he played for Canada in the 2021 World Junior Championship and this season in the NCAA.
Levi made a name for himself last year in the World Juniors when he turned in an incredible performance in leading Canada to the silver medal. He went 6-1-0 in the tournament and his only loss came 2-0 to the United States in the gold medal game. He tied United States goalie, and fellow Panthers draft pick, Spencer Knight with three shutouts. He allowed five goals in seven games with a .964 save percentage. It was a stunning run of play and mostly unexpected because the biggest question surrounding Canada ahead of the tournament was goaltending.
Levi had more than enough answers.
“(Levi)’s fast post to post, I like his steady glove; He comes out to smother shots and pucks,” Russ Cohen of Sirius/XM NHL Network said via email. “Levi is smart with the puck. His stickwork is good including steady passes up the ice and safer passes behind the net. (He) makes the right save at the right time and the big save when you need it.
“I think he’s an NHL goaltender. I’m not a goalie expert, but I like his potential as a 1B or backup someday,” Cohen said.
Now in his sophomore season at Northeastern, Levi is one of the top goalies in the nation. Through 21 games at Northeastern he is 15-5-1 with a .953 save percentage and a 1.38 goals-against average and eight shutouts. He leads the NCAA in save percentage, he’s third in wins, and fourth in goals-against average and he’s got the Huskies third in Hockey East and ranked ninth in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll.
For a guy who was taken in the seventh round in 2020, he’s stacking up a résumé and a profile that brings higher expectations.
What comes with raised hopes are big ideas, some of which are popping up now.
After seeing the Carolina Hurricanes sign goalie Jack LaFontaine out of the University of Minnesota on Monday, some fans are hoping the Sabres will sign Portillo or Levi out of college to take the net. Given Kevyn Adams’ wont to develop players properly, it seems highly doubtful that would happen, especially with the Sabres not having playoff hopes this season.
As it is, the Sabres weren’t eager to press Luukkonen into duty at the NHL level in hopes to give him as many games as possible in Rochester. Times, needs, and situations change though. In a normal situation, Levi would be likely looking to sign an entry-level deal after next season. Assumption would be that Portillo would sign after this season.
Is it worth it to Buffalo to throw the plan out the window because of a freakishly bad turn of luck in a season which they’ve won five of their past 28 games (5-18-5)? No way.
That said, with Levi performing the way he is this season it’s easy to think it’s a move they can live with.
Northeastern is scheduled to return to action at Vermont on Tuesday, January 18. The game is broadcast ($) on College Sports Live.
Editor’s Note: On Tuesday, Levi was named a nominee for the Hobey Baker Award. Vote here.