Devon Levi has a great deal of expectations being thrust upon him after winning his second Mike Richter Award as the NCAA’s top goalie, turning pro, and playing seven games down the stretch for the Buffalo Sabres last season. The 21-year-old not only has the heavy burden of leading the Sabres into the postseason for the first time since 2011, he is projected to be a contender for the Calder Trophy.
The Athletic ranked the top 20 rookie candidates for the Calder this upcoming season on Tuesday and Levi was listed third behind 2023 top pick Connor Bedard and 2022 third-overall pick Logan Cooley.
Bedard (who won consecutive World Junior Championships with Canada, and scored 143 points with the WHL’s Regina Pats) and Cooley (who played in the NCAA National Championship game with the University of Minnesota) both have the advantage of being on clubs that are not expected to challenge for the playoffs and will be evaluated more on individual accomplishments. Each will likely get their club’s best linemates and plenty of playing time on special teams to accentuate their point totals.
Levi’s fate is inextricably tied to the Sabres being able to play better defensively after allowing 300 goals against and missing the playoffs by a point last season. Buffalo added veteran blueliners in Erik Johnson and Connor Clifton to the fold over the summer, but their fate will depend on young players like Dylan Cozens, Rasmus Dahlin, J-J Peterka, and Owen Power being able to improve their two-way game.
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) September 5, 2023
2022 first-rounder Jiri Kulich is listed as an honorable mention as a potential Calder candidate, but that would depend on him making the Sabres out of training camp and playing on the club’s top two lines. In spite of Kulich’s excellent performance in the American Hockey League and World Junior last season, it is more likely that the 19-year-old center will start the season in Rochester and possibly go to his third World Junior in December.
— Michael Augello (@MikeInBuffalo) September 5, 2023
2022 top pick Matthew Savoie, who was at the NHL’s Rookie Showcase in Washington DC on Tuesday, was not on the list, even though his status as a 19-year-old who cannot play in the AHL next season might give the young forward a step up over Kulich in terms of NHL opportunity this season.