BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Devon Levi watch has reached its next stage: Sabres fans will get the chance to watch the touted rookie goaltender play in an NHL game.
Levi, the top goalie prospect in the Sabres organization, will make his professional debut starting Friday night against the New York Rangers at KeyBank Center, a team spokesperson confirmed during Thursday’s practice.
“I’ve been dreaming of this moment for my whole life,” Levi said following his second full practice with the team. “For it to finally be here, it’s a big deal. I’m going to be really excited.”
The 21-year-old Levi signed with the Sabres on March 17 following a stellar two seasons playing for Northeastern University. He received the Mike Richter Award as the best goalie in NCAA Division I, and is a finalist for the honor again following his junior season. He is a two-time nominee for the Hobey Baker Award, the top honor in college hockey. Levi’s career save percentage in college was .942, the second-best mark of all-time, just ahead of former Sabres star Ryan Miller, a Hobey Baker Award winner. The former seventh-round draft pick was acquired from the Florida Panthers in the Sam Reinhart trade in July, 2021.
With nine games remaining, the Sabres (35-31-7) have 77 points in the standings, five behind the Penguins for the final wild-card playoff spot. Levi is eager to help the Sabres make a push to end their NHL-record postseason drought at 11 seasons.
“I love it,” Levi said. “It’s a great situation to be in. I want to help this team make a playoff run, and it just makes the game even more valuable, even more pressure.”
Goaltending has been a thorn in the Sabres’ side for much of the season, but particularly down the stretch run. Since Feb. 1, Buffalo ranks 31st in the NHL in save percentage, with the team’s three goalies combing for a .872.
“Tomorrow you go into a game and you know that 18 other skaters are aware they have a first-time goaltender in the net,” said Sabres coach Don Granato, referencing forward Lukas Rousek’s debut on Monday. “They’re well aware when a new guy comes in the lineup. And I think this being a goaltender they’re going to be more dialed in the defensive aspects than maybe they would otherwise because they want to support him, they want to make sure they support him as a new player.”
Levi’s arrival and debut on the ice has been anticipated by fans throughout the season, and Granato hopes that excitement carries over into the Sabres’ play on Friday.
“I think any fan excitement affects the club and the team in a very positive manner,” Granato said. “So the more excited your fans get, especially in the building and in the moment, the adrenaline feeds right into the players, I can tell you that. Sitting on the bench, being a player myself, people engaged in what you’re passionate about, you feel that, you hear that noise, you feel that. The momentum swings and shifts, it’s a surge of adrenaline. When this building is erupted with that emotion, it’s fed right through to the bench immediately.”
Buffalo’s plan to start Levi on Friday night was first reported by former NHL goaltender Kevin Weekes from NHL Network.
Jonah Bronstein joined the News 4 roster in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. Read more of his work here.
News 4’s Adam Gorski contributed to this report.