Less than two years ago, as general manager Kevyn Adams began rebuilding the Buffalo Sabres, he acquired an intriguing goalie prospect named Devon Levi.
Despite having backstopped Team Canada to a silver medal at the 2021 World Junior Championship, Levi, who on Friday signed a three-year, entry-level contract and will report to the Sabres, was still a bit of an unknown.
A rib injury Levi had suffered with Canada sidelined him his entire freshman season at Northeastern. The Florida Panthers had taken a flier on him in 2020, drafting him in the seventh round following his final junior season in the Central Canada Hockey League.
But Adams and his staff had done their homework on Levi and in trading Sam Reinhart, the Sabres wanted him as part of the return.
It was soon clear why.
Levi quickly developed into a dominant college goalie, posting a .952 save percentage in 2021-22 and winning the Richter Award as the NCAA’s top netminder. Today, he’s a cornerstone of Buffalo’s future.
After signing his first contract, Levi, 21, will begin his pro career in Buffalo, where he will remain the rest of the year, Adams told reporters Friday in Philadelphia prior to the Sabres’ game against the Flyers.
“We just thought for his development, where we are right now, this was a critical time for him to learn and grow with us,” Adams said.
Levi will begin practicing after his immigration paperwork is finalized. Down the line, Adams said the Sabres are opening to Levi playing.
Adams, of course, wants him to become comfortable with the team. In veteran goalie Craig Anderson, 41, Adams believe they have a terrific mentor for the youngster.
Right now, they have three other goalies – Anderson, rookie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and Eric Comrie, who’s injured – on the roster. Luukkonen and Comrie, both of whom have started regularly this year, are under contract for next season.
Levi’s contract carries a salary cap hit of $925,000 and an annual signing bonus of $92,500, according to capfriendly.com. He’s the only player from the 2020 NHL Draft selected after the first round to receive a maximum salary, signing bonus and close to the maximum potential ‘A’ performance bonuses, according to puckpedia.com. Those performances bonuses can’t exceed $250,000, according to capfriendly.com.
The 6-foot, 190-pound Levi compiled a 38-22-6 record with a 1.90 goals-against average, a .942 save percentage and 15 shutouts in 66 career games with Northeastern. He holds the school record for goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts.
“He’ll go down as one of the all-time great (college) goaltenders,” Adams said.
He earned Hockey East Player of the Year honors as a junior this season, registering a 17-12-5 record with a 2.24 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage and six shutouts in 34 games. On Saturday, the Huskies lost their first game of the conference tournament, ending his college career.
He’s a top-10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, NCAA hockey’s top individual honor, and one of three finalists for the Richter Award. He was also a Hobey Baker finalist last season.