BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Devon Levi was patient in deciding when to leave Northeastern University to sign with the Sabres. Now the Buffalo’s top goaltending prospect is eager to get to work with his new teammates.
“I feel like this month or so that I’m here I can get a year’s worth of development out of,” Levi said Monday after watching practice from the bench while awaiting immigration paperwork to process that will allow him to join the Sabres on the ice.
“So I’m just really excited facing these shots being with NHL players, Mike Bales, NHL goaltending coach. Just being around the guys learning how to be a pro more than I already know how to do. It’s just all great for maturing and my development. So I’m just super glad to be here.”
Levi, a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, college hockey’s top honor, and the Mike Richter Award given to the nation’s best goaltender, signed his entry-level contract last week after the conclusion of his junior season at Northeastern. Levi praised general manager Kevyn Adams and the Sabres organization for helping him reach the decision to turn pro.
“The way that Kevyn has brought me in and showed me his vision, I share a lot of the same morals and visions that he does with this group,” Levi said. “He’s trying to get a lot of good people, not only good hockey players, but just quality human beings. And he’s doing it the right way. So, it was a decision that I took my time to make sure it was the right one. But when I made up my mind, it was an easy to set decision. I just felt in my heart that I wanted to be a Sabre. I’m so happy to be here.”
The 21-year-old Levi is considered to be the goalie of the future at a position that has been unsettled for the Sabres since the 2014 trade of Ryan Miller, a Hobey Baker winner to whom Levi has drawn comparisons.
“The great thing about expectations is they’re not real, they’re just what people are talking about,” Levi said. “It’s talk about the future. The way I’ve always dealt with expectations is kind of not dealing with them. And at the same time, going back to Northeastern, there was a lot of expectation that I got to have another great year and this and that. But for me, I’m just going to go out and do the thing I love. Stop the puck. And I trust that the outcomes are going to take care of themselves. So I have expectations for myself and my attitude about how I approach the game. And other than that, those are the only expectations that I kind of hold myself to.”
The Sabres began this week six points out of playoff position with 13 games remaining. If unable to make up ground in the standings, the franchise will extend its record NHL postseason drought to 12 seasons.
Coach Don Granato said Levi could get an opportunity to play in a game this season if he acclimates well enough during practice.
“What you would look at is when is that appropriate?” Granato said. “He has all new gear. The process of that is gear has to be certified by the league and measured by the league and approved. That’s come in piece by piece, so he doesn’t have all of his gear yet. He hasn’t faced NHL shooters yet. Getting used to that gear, getting that gear broken in and facing enough shooters and getting that timing and rhythm, that is something that we will monitor and see where it leads.”
Levi led the nation in save percentage in each of his two seasons. His sophomore mark (.952) was the second-best in NCAA history, and his career SV% (.942) is second all-time behind Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck, and a tick above Miller.
“It’s pretty cool to be in company of such amazing goaltenders,” Levi said. “During the season, I try not to look at my stats just because, personally, I think the only stat that matters is the win column. So save percentage, goals against, kind of something that I just look at the end of the year. But yeah, looking back, it’s pretty cool. There are a lot of amazing goaltenders that went through college hockey that had amazing careers and are still have amazing NHL careers. So it’s cool to be compared to these guys. It’s definitely an honor.”
Arriving in Buffalo on Sunday in time to watch the Sabres’ 7-0 loss against the Bruins from the press box, Levi has embraced the opportunity to learn from goalie Craig Anderson, the NHL’s oldest player at 41.
“I’m just trying to pick his brain as much as I can,” Levi said. “There’s a reason that he’s 41 and still in the game having a lot of success. So he’s a guy that I made my decision to come here because this could be his last year and to be able to be goalie partners with him and be around the rink with him, it’s something that I can value and I can get a lot out of. And he’s been great. He’s been easing me in. Taking me under his wing a little. It’s been great to ask him questions and kind of learn the way the thinks the game because he’s such a good goalie, so smart, so good at reading the play.”
At 6-feet tall, Levi is two inches shorter than the average NHL goaltender. He doesn’t believe that stature will diminish his ability to succeed.
“Just keep the puck out of the net, that’s what it comes down to,” Levi said. “I feel like I was born to do this and it’s my passion. I go out every day with the will to stop the guy that’s coming down on me. IT’s the most fun thing in the world for me. I’m still growing, still getting better, still finding better ways to play and improve my game, and I’m just really excited to be facing the best of the best. I know it’s going to push my game even further.”
Jonah Bronstein joined the News 4 roster in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. Read more of his work here.