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Levi’s Journey to the NHL

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“The way we set up our rink, you can be right behind the net at one of the rinks,” he said. “I could see Devon watching the guys shoot, watching their strolls. And I saw him really connected, focused on their blades, on their bodies. Just him working and getting into it.”

“I think he probably wanted to feel like he was in the room.”

The moment was a microcosm of how Levy has spent his time since joining the Sabers on March 20. He brought a magazine to the press box to watch the games, and he dissected the goalie’s role in Buffalo’s system, the shooting patterns against it and the skills of opposing goalies. He participated in three full training sessions with the team after watching the preliminary practice from the stands.

It’s a testament to the patient, earnest nature that carried Levy throughout his journey – from young goaltender, who was never on Hockey Canada’s radar; FIFA World Junior Player of the Year; runner-up Hobie Baker; And tonight to the national hockey starting goalkeeper.

Video: After Workout: Levi’s

Levy will be making his Sabers debut against the New York Rangers at KeyBank Center. He said last summer that he never chases the highest, but rather lets it reach it, working hard on his development along the way.

As he spoke to reporters Thursday in the Sabers locker room, the timing seemed opportune.

“I felt ready to drop out of college, which is why I left,” he said. “I jumped out of college. It’s an act of faith. I was ready for this leap and I’m really excited.”

“extra challenge”

Levy could have turned pro this time last year. Instead, he chose to return to his freshman year at Northeastern University, where he had just completed one of the great seasons in NCAA history.

952 save percentage in 2021-22, first in the nation and second all-time. His 10 saves ranks third all-time. He was awarded the Mike Richter Award for Best Goaltender in College Hockey.

He decides to go back to school in part to get another chance at Frozen Four. He wanted to feel the pressure of living with the expectations that would come with his success.

“It’s an additional challenge that you will definitely face on a professional level,” Levy said in July. “You play so many seasons and you come in with a good season, how are you going to start over? That is the question. A lot of people struggle with that.”

Levi was talking about his experience. He led the league in save percentage in his second season of U18 AAA hockey with the Lake St. Louis Lions and improved the mark in a team-best playoff series (the number went from 0.927 to 0.942).

Video: Devon Levy’s first day in Buffalo

John Goins, who coached Levy with the Lions, recalls the Outsiders then advising Levy to move into minor hockey after this season. Levy decided to stay for what he now considers to be one of the most difficult and productive seasons of his life.

Levi’s save percentage dropped to . 909 in his third year with the Lions, which he says is now a result of him learning to adjust to expectations. But Goyens saw great progress that year in various areas.

Usually one of the youngest players in his team due to his birthday being in December, Levy has emerged as captain. Develop procedures to work with. He worked tirelessly on the puck, which became a major cog in how the team got out of its own territory.

It all came together in the playoffs that year. The Lions made it all the way to the League Championship Series, including the semi-final game, which they lost 41-1 during the regular season. His liquidation percentage was 0.937.

When the Lions failed in the final, Levy tried to take the blame.

“He barged into the office and almost apologized, which you almost didn’t care about,” Goines said. “This is what he expects of himself and how much he wants to make a difference.”

Levy again led the NCAA in save percentage this season and is runner-up for his repeat Richter Award win.

“It’s all like hockey.”

Video: Eye on Sabers

Jack Hughes was Levy’s teammate for the past two seasons at Northeastern. They lived together in summer school when Hughes was in Buffalo at the NHL Scouting Combine this past June.

Second round by Los Angeles, Hughes said he had never seen anything like Levy’s dedication to hockey. Summer days at school started with the elevator around 7:30 in the morning, Levi went to class until about 3:30 in the evening, stopped in the hall until 4 in the morning, then went to the ice rink.

“I’ll be in bed before he comes home some nights,” Hughes said.

Owen Bauer He got a similar idea from his experience with Levy for Canada at the 2022 Beijing Olympics. Bauer and Levy are linked as two of the youngest players on the team.

“For him, it’s all like hockey,” Bauer said recently. “Everything he does seems to have something to do with hockey.”

Levi is a gifted student and valedictorian in high school, majoring in computer science at Northeastern University. Hughes said his lessons last summer included a class on programming. He plays the piano and his childish sense of humor is liked by his classmates.

One of Levi’s gifts is how he applies his mental nature to develop what he described earlier this month as his one true passion: stopping pucks. It was a quality Jerry Gomez saw when he first met Levy at the age of nine on a Lake St. Louis program.

“I think he was able to develop his player himself at a young age,” said Gomez, the Lac St. Louis development program coach.

Gomez recalls a cycle of bowl games in which Levi and the Lions did not perform well. Gomez asked Levy, who was 13 at the time, if he thought he could have done something different. When Levy was unsure, Gomez indicated that he deviated from his pre-match routine.

“I kind of hinted, ‘Well, your preparation today wasn’t as usual. Usually I see you with the ball,’ and this and that,” Gomez said. “He jumped that day, for some reason. He’s a little kid, right? »

Levy, a graduate bantamweight, recalled that moment for Gomez a year later and said he hasn’t skipped that part of his routine since.

“It’s very cerebral,” Gomez said. “He’s just a smart kid. He’s a visionary.”

Video: Eye on Sabers

Since then, Levi’s has designed her own unique routine. He trains on ice using virtual reality software. He drifts to the blue line and bounces off the ice during TV outages, with his back to his net. (There were times, Hughes said, when Levy was so deep in self-reflection that he was unaware of a resumption of play at the other end of the ice.)

“He’s so superior at his game,” Hughes said. “He’s doing everything he can to get better.”

His will generates confidence. Goyens and Gomez both remember seeing Levi early on — wanting to challenge shooters at an age when some goalkeepers could be insecure. When the adult trainers pass him, Levi smiles and tells them to shoot again.

Levy hung around the summer skate as the starting goaltender for the Montreal Pro Players, a group that included Tampa Bay Lightning forward Alex Killorn and Florida Panthers forward Anthony Duclair. He was so dominant in the shootout that Killorn would tweet about it years later.

Tweet from @Akillorn19: I remember shooting my 14 year old son @DevonLevi33. Kidd would take hundreds of kicks and splits from NL players after skating with his team. He had a great attitude and competed like hell. No wonder he does such a good job. I couldn’t even register after that!! sllionsaaa pic.twitter.com/D8Tm2XMmTy

“I would say the most operations-focused and invested-in-the-operations athlete I’ve ever encountered,” Goines said. “That’s why we see Devon Levy now.”

“didn’t change”

There were tears in Gomez’s house when Levy produced a dominating performance for Team Canada at the 2021 World Junior Championships.

Part of Gomez’s development work with Lake St. Louis was to put his players on Hockey Canada’s radar. Levy—because of his late birthday (December 27), height (6-foot-1, 184 pounds), and playing on bullpen teams—didn’t attract national attention at such a young age.

Levy, months after propelling Florida to the seventh round, posted a remarkable . 964 save percentage in seven World Junior Games. He earned tournament MVP honors as well as a silver.

“It was emotional,” Gomez said. “We were very proud.”

But for all his accomplishments on the ice—junior world meets, dominating seasons at Northeastern, an Olympic nod—Gomez and the others who’ve spent time with young Levi are proud of who he got off the ice.

“What I’m most proud of is seeing him on social media for example, I see him taking a lot of time to meet people and take pictures with the kids,” said Gomez. “…after all, he’s a great human being. I think all his teammates will tell you that. A nice guy you couldn’t want on your team.”

Raimondo says Levy texts him when he’s in Montreal and usually asks, “Do you need help?”

“He stayed true to exactly who he was,” Raimondo said. “He never changed. And that’s not true of everyone. Sometimes, our ego can get in the way in some way. He never let that happen once. He was just the old man himself.”

Goines shuddered at the description of the youngster who would become the 60th goalkeeper to play in a match in fans’ history.

A native. National. engaged.

“He’s one of the few special people on and off the ice,” said Goins. “I can’t wait to see what he does.”

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