The Florida Panthers drafted Devon Levi in the seventh round, sent him to the Buffalo Sabres the following summer, and he’s been lights out ever since.
In a recent article, Adam Proteau of The Hockey News listed Buffalo Sabres goaltender Devon Levi as the Blue and Gold’s player on the hot seat this season. If Levi wasn’t already on the hot seat when he signed with the team late last season and subsequently joined them as they tried to end their playoff drought, I’d initially say I’d be concerned with the pressure the young goaltender will undoubtedly find himself under.
When Levi debuted in a game vs. the New York Rangers last March, the Sabres were so far behind the eight-ball that a pair of losses in the final nine contests would again force them to watch the playoffs. And that’s exactly what eventually happened, but not before Levi finished the season 5-2 with a 2.94 GAA, a 0.905 save percentage, and a 0.714 quality starts percentage.
As far as his early returns go, Levi can handle the hot seat quite well, as very few goaltenders drafted late in the seventh round can make the seamless transition from college to the NHL and enjoy solid play with their respective team looking to make the playoffs. Often, these players, especially late-round picks, need time in the AHL before they try to make the ultimate jump.
Buffalo Sabres goaltender will be just fine on the hot seat
"“He doesn’t have to put on a defensive clinic night in and night out; rather, he just needs to be dependable enough to allow Buffalo’s offense to push them over the finishing line. Sounds simple, but it isn’t, and Levi will have considerable pressure to produce or be pushed aside for someone else in the short term.” – Adam Proteau via The Hockey News"
This was the main snippet I wanted to break down regarding Proteau’s assessment. First off, Proteau is correct that Levi doesn’t need to play like Dominik Hasek or Ryan Miller in every single one of his starts. He’s playing for a high-octane Sabres team and during Buffalo’s playoff push, Levi has already proven he can be more than dependable without putting up Hasek or Miller-like performances 100% of the time.
That said, with there being only 32 starting goaltender jobs in the NHL, being under pressure to produce well consistently as an NHL goaltender is always there. However, history is also on Levi’s side in that regard, given the pressure he was under this past season to give a so-so Northeastern squad pristine play in the crease, and he accomplished just that, finishing his final collegiate season with a 0.933 save percentage and a 2.24 GAA.
And, of course, we already mentioned the way he needed to perform during the playoff push in late March and in April. Levi has already shown us on multiple occasions he’s more than comfortable playing on the hot seat, and my projection is that we will see him continue to perform well throughout the upcoming season.
Source: NHL HOT SEAT RADAR 2023: BUFFALO SABRES by Adam Proteau, The Hockey News