The Buffalo Sabres were informed on Monday that their goaltender prospect Devon Levi has decided to stay in college. To many, this might come as a surprise, but there are a number of reasons why it is not. His decision follows what many college prospects (including a few Sabres prospects) have done so far, wanting a second shot at winning a championship. But why is Levi’s decision being taken as a surprise? Well, that’s what will be looked at here.
Sabres GM Kevyn Adams told reporters that the team completely supports Levi’s decision. Levi has only played one season of college hockey and wanted to accomplish more before turning pro. https://t.co/JtED1Y9t5i
— Lance Lysowski (@LLysowski) April 5, 2022
Buffalo Sabres Prospect Devon Levi Staying In College For Another Season
There are many good things about Devon Levi – his abilities in goal being a big one. He’s a smaller goalie but that doesn’t make him less or worse than the big guys. And that’s what helped him set records in the NCAA. In his first college season, Levi posted a .953 save percentage, 2.05 goals-against average, a 20-13-1 record and a school-record 10 shutouts. That’s unbelievable for a 20-year-old who hadn’t played since January 2021.
His absence in the 2020-21 season was due to an injury suffered in the World Juniors, helping Team Canada get a silver medal. At the WJC, Levi also set a new record for save percentage, with a .964, beating Carey Price‘s former .961. All of the above is a big reason why a lot of fans were surprised by the decision. He’s good, he seems to be ready to take the next step, he would shine in a much-needed role on the Sabres team. But if he’s so good, why didn’t he sign?
Levi’s Revenge Tour
The answer is simple (as far as the public view goes): he has unfinished business with the Northeastern Huskies. Levi and the Huskies got eliminated from the NCAA playoffs in the first round, with a 2-1 overtime loss against Western Michigan on March 25. Fifteen of the players who were on the roster this season are returning in the next and maybe the goalie felt they have a real shot.
He was also snubbed from the Hobey Baker Award, awarded to the best player in NCAA men’s hockey. While he’s a finalist for the Mike Richter Award, given to the best goaltender in college, he will return a favourite for the Hobey Baker.
In regards to Devon Levi not signing with #LetsGoBuffalo and going back to Northeastern. Here’s a long thread that might explain the thought process behind it. If you look at his history, he has always made decisions that made sense for him, but never the expected one. 1/13
— Jérôme Bérubé (@Jerome_Berube) April 5, 2022
In addition to his revenge tour, this was Levi’s first season in college hockey. And even though he was outstanding, there’s still much to learn. Becoming a professional player is a big step and taking it without being ready can turn out to be a big mistake. Levi is young and the Sabres still hold his rights until mid-2024. There’s still time.
The Sabres’ Goaltending Situation
Now that Levi decided not to sign, the Sabres once again find themselves in a goaltending situation. The reports are that the team informed Craig Anderson they would like to have him back. And after the season he’s having, that’s more than fair. But Anderson turns 41 in May and had decided to retire before coming back and signing with the Sabres. There will surely be a long conversation with his family to decide what’s best for them.
Their AHL prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen is ready to go to the NHL but he’s also a restricted free agent at the end of the season. They’re surely qualifying him but what happens next is unpredictable. Even RFA’s can end up leaving the team if they get an offer sheet, for example. But the point is: they don’t have a goaltender under contract once the season’s over. Not in the AHL, not in the NHL, and that can be a problem.
The Sabres still have to check with Erik Portillo if he’ll sign once his season is over – he’ll be competing in the Frozen Four on Thursday. But if he doesn’t, then it’ll be an even bigger problem. They could re-sign Dustin Tokarski but that’s not ideal. They could go after a free agent goaltender but Buffalo isn’t the go-to team for free agent players. Maybe a guy like Thomas Greiss can try his luck with the Sabres after the disastrous season he’s having with the Red Wings.
What can be said about their goaltending situation is that it will get better. It might require a little bit of patience and a few years, but they have three brilliant prospects that have a future. Being optimistic isn’t Buffalo fans’ go-to after everything that has happened. But for now, that’s all one can do.
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