It’s no secret the Buffalo Sabres have one of the best, if not the best, prospect pools slash pipelines in the NHL today.
Corey Pronman of The Athletic just ranked the Buffalo Sabres prospect pipeline third in the NHL. Now, if you are familiar with Pronman’s work, they rank each pipeline, and the players who fit that criteria – basically, any player in the system aged 22 or under – are then ranked individually.
Therefore, Pronman’s rankings look a little different from what we would ordinarily see, with Dylan Cozens leading the pool following his solid season, and Owen Power following closely behind. Then Devon Levi, right?
Well, Levi only has seven games of experience in the NHL, so it makes sense to put guys like Jack Quinn (3), J.J. Peterka (5), and Peyton Krebs (9) in front of him. Each has played their first respective full seasons with the Sabres, and they all likely found their niches with the team.
It even makes sense to rank high upside players like Zach Benson (4), Jiri Kulich (6), and Matt Savoie (8) ahead of Levi. Benson will excel in the WHL this season while Kulich and Savoie could find themselves in the lineup – it’s possible, and I’m by no means endorsing this – I’m just pointing out the possibility.
But Levi would be somewhere behind the aforementioned players, right? Nope. Noah Ostlund (7), Anton Wahlberg (10), and Maxim Strbak (11) also found their way ahead of the Sabres projected 1A. Okay, we need to talk about this…
Buffalo Sabres goaltender is officially their most underrated player
To Pronman’s credit, they at least spoke glowingly of Levi, so this isn’t to say that they’re seeing something the rest of us aren’t. And it’s also not saying that there is some new analytics spreadsheet out there that’s telling them Levi’s chances of being a successful NHL goaltender is, in reality, slim to none.
Nope, once again, it’s Levi’s lack of size that’s keeping Pronman from ranking him higher. Here was Pronman’s take::
"“With Levi it has always come down to his frame, and whether he will be big enough to be an NHL goalie. I think he will be, but I’m hesitant to tag him as more than a tandem type because of that risk variable. He’s done nothing more than prove people wrong for the last few years so I wouldn’t be shocked if he developed into a legitimate starter.” – via The Athletic"
Listen, there isn’t a single hockey analytic or statistic for that matter that measures one’s desire to become a great player, regardless of the sport. Levi has shown time and again that lack of size is only an issue if you let it become one. And throughout his amateur career (and through seven games of his pro career), he refuses to let his lack of size work against him.
But for everyone who takes size into account, Levi will always be a second-tier player until he’s at least in the discussion to win the Vezina one day – not so bold prediction. The kid has basically won everything else he’s been in the running for, so why not project it?
And even then, it still may not be enough to convince people. But guess who else lacked ideal size? Dominik Hasek – listed at 6’1, 166 lbs, per Hockey-Reference. Over his nine seasons with the Buffalo Sabres, Hasek started 58 or more games in six of those years. That said, I for one, will refuse to to underrate Devon Levi.
Source: Buffalo Sabres rank No. 3 in NHL Pipeline Rankings for 2023 by Corey Pronman, The Athletic