Buffalo Sabres: Network ranks Levi third in preseason Calder candidates

Apr 11, 2023; Newark, New Jersey, USA; Buffalo Sabres goaltender Devon Levi (27) makes a glove save during the third period against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 11, 2023; Newark, New Jersey, USA; Buffalo Sabres goaltender Devon Levi (27) makes a glove save during the third period against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports /
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Buffalo Sabres goaltender Devon Levi is finally getting some recognition, with The Athletic handing him a high preseason ranking.

For a while, it seemed as though everyone forgot just how effective Devon Levi was. In the IIHF Worlds, he started just one game, similar to his stint in the Olympics a year-and-a-half prior. He was also ranked 12th in the Buffalo Sabres pipeline, courtesy of The Athletic’s Corey Pronman.

This came despite the fact he already had seven NHL games under his belt. Furthermore, Levi also stabilized the net late in the season, despite having zero prior professional hockey experience. However, Scott Wheeler and Harman Dayal appeared to have a different opinion about Levi than their colleague, slotting him third in their preseason Calder Trophy rankings.

Only Connor Bedard (Chicago Blackhawks) and Logan Cooley (Arizona Coyotes) rank higher, and understandably so. Bedard is a generational sensation who should make his presence felt from the moment Chicago’s season kicks off. Cooley, meanwhile, is coming off of a stellar season at the University of Minnesota, where he sunk 60 points and 22 goals in 2022-23.

Buffalo Sabres goaltender could win the Calder in 2023-24

If you go back to my first bold prediction for the 75 In 75 Series, I said that Levi would win the Calder. However, be mindful of the keyword phrase: bold prediction. While they often hold very little water, it doesn’t mean Levi taking the coveted award is impossible.

What would it take for the Sabres rookie goaltender to snag the trophy? Check out the following quote for some insight:

"“One of the biggest questions surrounding his Calder chances will be how Buffalo performs defensively. Goalie stats like save percentage can be heavily influenced by the quality of defensive play in front and last year the Sabres allowed way too many high-danger chances.” – Harman Dayal, via The Athletic"

Source: Ranking the top 20 Calder Trophy candidates for the 2023-24 NHL season

Dayal is absolutely correct in their assumption. If the Buffalo Sabres look bad defensively despite their additions and added experience, Levi’s numbers may be no better than average. And even if he pulls off a sensational rookie season in terms of analytics, it won’t matter much if he produces so-so numbers.

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Most voters will look at Levi’s statistics, compare them to the others, and go from there. Therefore, if Levi were to win the award, he would need some help. The 21-year-old will be an excellent goaltender, but as a rookie, we can’t expect him to carry the team on his back.

(Statistics provided by Elite Prospects)