LEVI AGREES TO THREE-YEAR, ENTRY-LEVEL DEAL WITH SABRES
Goaltender led NCAA last two seasons in save percentageMar 17, 2023
Devon Levi has patiently navigated each step of his development, confident that a pro career would follow if he made the right decisions along the way.
"I've never really chased the highest level," Levi said during Buffalo Sabres development camp last summer. "I've kind of just let it come when the time is right."
The time has come. Levi and the Sabres agreed to a three-year, entry-level contract on Friday, six days after his junior season at Northeastern University ended in the Hockey East Tournament.
Levi returned to Northeastern this past season intent on following up on the success he had experienced the year prior. He led the country with a .952 save percentage in 2021-22, the second-best mark in NCAA history. He won the Mike Richter Award as the best collegiate goaltender and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award.
The 21-year-old led the NCAA once again this season with a .933 save percentage and ranked third in both saves (1,183) and shutouts (6). He has already been named Hockey East Player of the Year, is one of three finalists for the Richter Award, and is one of 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker.
Levi's decision to return for his junior season was consistent with the patient approach he has embraced throughout his journey. He forwent the start of his junior hockey career for a third year of U18 AAA with the Lac St. Louis Lions in 2018-19. The season prior, he had led the league in with a .927 save percentage.
"That was my hardest year of hockey, honestly," he said. "It was the expectations, learning how to manage expectations. I was a bit younger, and I came off a good season my second year. So, it's how you going to do it again? I struggled a little bit at first trying to manage it."
Levi had a .909 save percentage that season as he refined his all-around game - playing the puck, developing off-ice habits, and becoming a leader in the dressing room. With all those elements, he skyrocketed to a .937 save percentage in 16 postseason games.
He has remained above .930 ever since. His .941 save percentage led the CCHL in his lone season of junior hockey. His .964 mark in seven games at the 2021 World Junior Championship earned him tournament MVP honors along with a silver medal.
Levi was a seventh-round pick by the Florida Panthers in 2020. The Sabres acquired him in July 2021 along with a first-round pick (used to select forward Jiri Kulich) in the trade that sent Sam Reinhart to Florida.
"The prospect we got, we feel really strongly about," Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams said regarding Levi at the time of the trade.
The organization went to work building a relationship with Levi over the ensuing two years. Levi was in attendance alongside Adams for a Sabres morning skate in Boston last May and got his full-fledge introduction to Buffalo at development camp. The experience left a mark.
"Kevyn said in our little meeting before dev camp that we're looking to win a Stanley Cup," Levi said then. "I think that the organization is on its way. It's really impressive."