BUFFALO, N.Y. — It was just ridiculous how many people thought that Devon Levi was going to go back to school for another season just so he wouldn’t have to sign with the Buffalo Sabres.
From the time Levi came to Development Camp last summer, all indications were that he wanted to try to duplicate his freshman season at Northeastern University and then sign. These people also think that because one person in franchise history went the college free agency road (Cal Petersen), that everyone must do it.
These are some of the same people that thought Owen Power would give up two years of earning in the NHL to play two more years of college just so he wouldn’t have to sign here, ignoring the fact that he was happy Buffalo drafted him.
Levi is one of the best college hockey goaltenders ever, as he’s a finalist to win his second straight Mike Richter Award as the top college goalie. I don't know if I've ever seen a college goaltender that reads the play as well as he does.
In his two seasons at Northwestern, Levi’s numbers were staggering. Last year he went 21-10-1 with a 1.54 goals against and a .952 save percentage. This season, he was 17-12-5 with a 2.24 goals against and .933 save percentage. His save percentage leads the country for the second straight year.
The 21-year-old Levi is the Hockey East Player of the Year.
When Buffalo acquired Levi and a first-round pick, which turned into Jiri Kulich from the Florida Panthers for Sam Reinhart, the self-appointed draft geniuses howled at how Kevyn Adams got swindled settling for a seventh-round pick in Levi.
Had they done a little research, they would’ve seen the gaudy numbers he put up after the draft for Team Canada at the World Junior Championship, going 6-1-0 with a 0.75 goals against and a .964 save percentage winning the silver medal. In his one season in the CCHL for Carleton Place Canadians, Levi was 34-2-1 with a 1.47 goals against and .941 save percentage.
That fact, that he played in the CCHL in his draft season, hurt where he was taken.
Levi will report to the Sabres once he gets through the immigration process. This goaltender is very polished so I see him taking the Jeremy Swayman road to the NHL more than the six-year development road it took for Linus Ullmark. Swayman only played 14 games in the AHL before heading up to the Boston Bruins. Before that, he played three years at the University of Maine. Swayman was 22 when he entered the NHL.
Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets played two years at UMass-Lowell before spending a year and a half in the AHL.
Even with Levi and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen in the fold and Erik Portillo traded to the Los Angeles Kings, Buffalo still has a young goalie in the pipeline. Last year in the second round of the draft, the Sabres selected Topias Leinonen with the 41st overall pick. He was considered by many to be the best goalie in the draft.
Getting back to Levi, he’s the reason the Sabres haven’t been eager to trade for or sign a goalie for three years or more. If he does need a little seasoning, I think he could be ready in one season or less in Rochester.
Nothing is guaranteed in this world, but I 100% agree with what Adams has done, leaving a lane open for Levi and Luukkonen because I believe Levi is the real deal.