The future of the top goalie prospect in the pipeline remains in question
The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Die By The Blade community. It was a combination of staff writers and over 600 readers that ranked Buffalo Sabres players under the age of 25 as of August 1, 2022. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production to rank each player.
We’re into the top ten now and the next prospect is also the Sabres highest-ranked goalie prospect Devon Levi. Laden with accolades and a big part of the trade that saw Sam Reinhart leave WNY, Levin has chosen to go back to college for the upcoming season which further muddies his future in Buffalo. The Sabres still hold his rights and have two years in which to sign him to an entry-level contract, but Buffalo fans still remember not very fondly how another goalie prospect Cal Petersen refused to sign here after being drafted back in 2013.
Levi had a stellar season between the pipes for the Huskies, and won the 2022 Mike Richter Award given to the best NCAA goaltender every year. This will be his junior year in college in Boston after having missed his rookie season with injury, and also missed some time last season after being named to Team Canada at the Winter Olympics where he didn’t play.
He has previously represented his nation at the 2021 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships, winning the silver medal with a 0.964 SV% that beat Carey Price’s all0time record. He was named the Best Goaltender of the tournament and to the tournament All Star Team as well.
The hype around Levi is building rapidly and with good reason. He goes into the current NCAA season as one of the favorites to win the Hobey Baker Award given to the best college player, and his Northeastern side are being tipped to go far this season too.
Levi is commended for his intelligence on the ice and his positioning. Very quick from post to post, he makes up with his athleticism what he lacks in size. Most projections have him at least at a starting NHL goaltender level, so the Sabres could have done much worse.
It does put Buffalo in an awkward position – if Levi has another stellar season akin to last year, that might put him on the radar of other NHL teams who might be interested in stealing him away from the Sabres a la Petersen. However, it’s also in Buffalo’s best interests that he has a good year so that they can know he is consistent enough to put in a couple of years of top level play.
A challenge for the franchise will come up in the coming year as they get a good look at Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, and also have to decide what to do with another bright goalie prospect in Erik Portillo playing at Michigan, and have until the end of next year to sign him up. In an alternate reality the trio could all be a part of the Buffalo Sabres in a throwback to the days when we had Marty Biron, Ryan Miller and Mika Noronen in the stable, but that is quite unlikely to happen.