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Canada’s Puzzling Goaltending Choices

Devon Levi hasn’t dressed for either Olympic game thus far.

Canada v Russia: Semifinals - 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images

Buffalo Sabres prospect Devon Levi is in Beijing with Team Canada for the 2022 Winter Olympics, but has yet to dress in a game for his country there. It’s an interesting and somewhat puzzling choice by Canada’s team management to bring a talented prospect with an NHL future along and yet... not actually play him.

Granted, the tournament is not over and there’s definitely still time for Levi to get in on the action, but if Canada’s early choices are any indication, I’m not sure at this point when they’ll make that switch.

Eddie Pasquale and Matt Tomkins are Canada’s other two goaltenders, and both dressed for the team’s two games thus far. Pasquale made 23 saves on 24 shots faced in Canada’s 5-1 win over Germany to open the tournament. He also made 23 saves against the Americans, as Canada fell 4-2 in that game.

Pasquale, 31, is an original draft pick of the Atlanta Thrashers back in 2009 with the 117th overall selection. He played three games with the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2018-19 season, but has played overseas in the KHL the last three seasons. This year, he’s appeared in 38 games with Yaroslavl Lokomotiv, registering a .916 save percentage and 1.99 GAA.

Tomkins, 27, was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks 199th overall in 2012. He played parts of three seasons in the AHL with the Rockford IceHogs, then made the jump to Frolunda in Sweden this season. In 23 games, he’s 14-8-0 with a .913 save percentage and 2.32 GAA.

Obviously, Levi is the riskier option. He’s by far the youngest of the three goalies, barely 20 years old. He’s incredibly fresh, only in his first season at Northeastern, but he appears to have a pretty high ceiling and has performed really well in Hockey East action (.948 save percentage, 1.55 GAA, nine shutouts).

No, he doesn’t have any pro experience, but honestly? Why take that kind of player to Beijing if you’re not going to actually play them? Why not go for it and give him the opportunity to dress **and play** for at least one game?

If nothing else, yes, going to the Olympics is undoubtedly an amazing experience for Levi. Who among us would’ve imagined back in July, when he came to the Sabres organization in the Sam Reinhart trade, that he would perform so well with the Huskies and head to Beijing? He deserves the chance to wear the maple leaf and play on the world’s biggest stage.

Hopefully, that’s exactly what will happen when Canada returns to action against China for their final game of the preliminary round. From there, it’s qualification playoffs, quarterfinals, semifinals and medal games. Give him his first shot in a low-risk match-up (no offense to Chinas; team, but they’re 0-2 and have been outscored 11-2 so far).

Fingers crossed we’ll get to see him on the ice then, and beyond that. Stay tuned.