It’s Clear That The Buffalo Sabres Have a Future Star at Goalie
The Buffalo Sabres are holding their developmental camp at HarborCenter in downtown Buffalo this week, which will go through Saturday.
The practices are broken up into two sessions through Friday (open to the public) and there will be the French Connection Tournament on Saturday, which is a ticketed event for season ticket members.
I went down to HarborCenter this morning to watch the first session.
Among the players on the ice were 2021's first-overall pick Owen Power (D), Jack Quinn (F), Peyton Krebs (F), and Noah Ostlund (F).
The goaltenders on the ice for the morning session were Erik Portillo and Devon Levi, both of whom are considered by everyone as the two top goaltenders in the Sabres system and the future of the team.
Portillo and Levi will both return for another season in college hockey; Portillo for the University of Michigan and Levi for Northeastern University.
Portillo was drafted in the third round by the Sabres in 2019 out of Sweden and Levi came over last July in the Sam Reinhart trade with the Florida Panthers. He was a seventh-round draft pick in 2020 but has been lights out in both the CCHL and his first year at Northeastern, which saw him have a GAA of 1,54 and a save percentage of .952.
Levi had 10 shutouts in 32 games at Northeastern, which is pretty remarkable. He was also incredible at the World Junior Championships for Team Canada.
Levi was extremely impressive in Thursday's morning session. It's only a practice, so you can't put a ton into it, but for Sabres fans getting their first look at Levin in person, their expectations were met.
Levi is excellent at both rebound control and side-to-side movement. He rarely overcommits and uses his stick to whack away rebounds almost instantly.
Twice he robbed Jack Quinn in point blank range -- the one time on a rebound that looked like a sure goal and Levin stuck out his pad at the last instance. Quinn gasped and looked up to the HarborCenter ceiling and the fans let out a reaction in amazement.
Levi's style reminds me of Ryan Miller, but he's even more controlled than Miller was early in his career. Levi's only 6'0'' even and 185 pounds, which was likely a reason he fell to the 7th round of the 2020 NHL Draft.
His size isn't a factor and it's because of the way he plays the net and his athleticism.
Goaltenders are weird. Sometimes they are high picks and flame out before reaching the NHL and other times you get Ryan Miller, who was a 5th-round pick in 1999 and then proceeded to set records at Michigan State and become one of the best goalies in the NHL of the 2000s.
Devon Levi has to get signed and to Rochester next spring. The Sabres will have to make that a priority and they already know that. The Sabres have until 2024 to sign him to an entry-level deal. If not, he becomes a free agent, which is the situation Portillo will be in by 2023.