BUFFALO – When Sabres goalie Devon Levi returned to Northeastern last month to finish the semester, coach Jerry Keefe chatted with his former player one day in the Huskies’ lounge.
Levi, 21, had just made the difficult jump from college hockey to the NHL, winning five of his seven starts as the Sabres made a memorable push and fell one victory shy of earning a playoff berth.
It’s not unusual for teams to award forwards and defensemen regular duty late in the season shortly after their NCAA career ends. Goalies, well, that’s another story. The position is so challenging it often takes years to prepare for an opportunity like Levi seized right away.
“Very seldom do you see a goaltender go right from college to the NHL and play meaningful games,” Keefe told the Times Herald. “It’s one thing if the games weren’t meaningful. They were.”
Levi quickly became the Sabres’ most talked-about and perhaps popular player. But when he arrived back on campus last month, Keefe found him devoid of any ego.
“He didn’t change one bit,” said Keefe, who noted Levi’s GPA did not slip last semester. “He’s sitting in the lounge in the locker room when I walked in, the first time I saw him. He’s just like one of the boys with his buddies again, which is really cool.”
That doesn’t mean Levi lacks confidence.
“Some people are just made for big moments,”Keefe said. “… Some people it takes them time to get confidence, and Devon’s a confident kid. The bigger the moment, I truly believe the more he rises to that occasion.”
Levi, of course, has thrived at every level of hockey. Before joining the Sabres, he starred for Team Canada at the World Junior Championship and left Northeastern as one of the most decorated goalies in NCAA history.
Right now, he’s playing for Canada at the World Championship, the first time he has participated in the tournament. He also represented his country at the Winter Olympics in 2022, although he did not play.
So far, Levi has started one game for Canada, stopping 22 shots in Sunday’s 5-2 win over Slovenia.
“He’s going to take that as a huge learning experience as well,” Keefe said of the World Championship. “He just keeps getting better. I mean, he’s going to have to get better if you want to be an elite goaltender at the National Hockey League level, but that’s Devon, though. He’s just going to continue to develop, continue to get better. He’s a very, very driven kid.”
Goalies Joel Hofer (St. Louis Blues) and Samuel Montembeault (Montreal Canadiens) are also on Canada’s roster.
Some other updates on Sabres participating in the World Championship in Finland and Latvia:
– Winger Jack Quinn scored the shootout-winning goal for Canada in Monday’s 3-2 win over Slovakia. Overall, he’s recorded one assist in three games.
– Winger Alex Tuch, an alternate captain for Team USA, has scored three goals in three games.
– Center Peyton Krebs has registered one assist in three games for Canada.
– Winger JJ Peterka has scored one goal in three games for Team Germany.
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) May 15, 2023