The best there is. The best there was. The best there ever will be.
No, we’re not talking about former WWE champion Bret Hart. Instead, that catchphrase is best applied to Devon Levi, the Northeastern goaltender who recently completed his junior year and signed his entry-level contract with the Buffalo Sabres. With that, Levi closes the book on his collegiate career, arguably one of the greatest all time by a college goalie, and easily the best career ever by a Northeastern net-minder.
It’s hard to put into words the impact that Devon Levi had on Northeastern hockey, but the statistics speak for themselves. In 66 games, Levi won 38, seventh most at Northeastern, and his 21 wins in 2021-22 are third-best all time. He posted 16 shutouts, destroying the previous career mark of 11 (done in four years by Chris Rawlings), and set the new single-season shutout mark in 2021-22 with 10, doubling the previous record held by Rawlings and Keni Gibson. Those 10 shutouts were also tied for third-most in a single season by a goaltender in all of college hockey.
He finishes his career with a .942 save percentage, the second-best career mark by any goalie in college hockey history, and in 2021-22, had a .952 save percentage, the second-best single-season mark ever by a collegiate goalie. A minuscule 1.90 career goals-against-average, and even smaller 1.54 mark in 2021-22 all top the program record books. He made 2,018 saves, 9th-best in school history. He tied the program single-game save record with 60 against UConn on February 25, 2022.
Those are just the statistics. Next come the accolades. In 2022: Mike Richter Award winner. Hobey Baker Award finalist (and rightful winner). Tim Taylor Award winner as the Top Collegiate Rookie, Northeastern’s first. Team Canada Olympian, the first men’s hockey Olympian in Northeastern history. Hockey East Rookie of the Year. First-Team All-American. Hockey East Three Stars Award. Hockey East Regular Season Champion.
In 2023: Hockey East Player of the Year. 2023 Hobey Baker Award semifinalist. 2023 Mike Richter Award finalist (and deserving winner). 2022 and 2023 Hockey East First All Star Team. Beanpot champion. Beanpot MVP. Eberly Award winner for best save percentage in the Beanpot. And to boot, in 2021, he was named the best goaltender at the 2021 World Junior Championships while playing for Team Canada en route to a silver medal.
Beyond the statistics though, Levi had a rarely-before-seen impact on Northeastern as a community. I’ve been a part of Northeastern since I enrolled in September 2011. I’ve watched over a decade of hockey and I’ve seen some of the best players in program history come through, ranging from Roy to Gaudette to Primeau, with many other fan favorites and stars in between. None of them had the impact, the buzz, and the superstar effect that Levi had. Simply putting him on the video board at Matthews Arena or TD Garden was enough to send students, alumni, fans alike, into a frenzy. His meditation ritual at stoppages mesmerized the hockey world, going viral half a dozen times as new people saw it for their first time. His immense degree of calm confidence, his unbridled joy for his teammates’ success, his honesty about challenges he faces as a computer science major while also being an elite hockey player- all of it endeared Devon to the Northeastern community in a way I have never seen before. To be honest, I have not seen many players in college hockey overall become so truly beloved at their school the way Levi was at Northeastern.
The best part about it though is that Levi never changed despite his star status. After an all-time performance for Team Canada at the 2021 World Junior Championships, he came to Northeastern with the same mentality that he did in all his previous stops in his hockey journey- earn his spot, keep improving, and give his team a chance to win. His work ethic is unrivaled: routinely adding in extra practice time to the point where his coaches had to talk with him about not training too hard; finding new, revolutionary drills to continue improving such as using virtual reality as a way to train his mind and reflexes without taxing his body on the ice; tracking puck after puck in warmups and practice even if he’s not the one in net; and taking every game, every accolade, every performance in stride with a focus on the next one no matter what had just occurred. It was inspiring watching him on the ice every game, reading about his habits every week, and seeing him continuously push his ceiling higher.
Now at present day, with two record-setting seasons of play and three years of growth at Northeastern behind him, Devon Levi signed his first professional hockey contract with the Buffalo Sabres, the team that saw something special in a late-round goalie prospect and made sure to acquire him in a trade, on March 17th. Just like his play was shattering norms and expectations, so too did his contract: Levi is the only player drafted outside the first round of 2020 to receive a max salary, full signing bonus, and close to maximum potential performance bonus. There was speculation it was unprecedented to a seventh-round pick. After signing he went straight to joining the team at the NHL level, itself a rarity for a collegiate goaltender, and if he makes his debut by season’s end, he will be in another rarified group of goaltenders to jump straight from the NCAA level to the NHL without any time in the AHL or ECHL in between. Buffalo has said they prioritize Levi’s path to playing time, and as we’ve come to learn watching him for the last three seasons, you never underestimate Devon Levi.
Northeastern fans have had the “how will we possibly replace Player X” discussion before, as program greats have passed through Huntington Avenue and Matthews Arena. As the program continues to grow, players develop, step up, and continue the upwards trajectory established by their peers, their teammates, and the players who came before them as the tradition of Northeastern hockey continues. This time, though, it feels…different. Not just because Devon Levi was an all-time hockey player at Northeastern. Instead, it feels different because there is truly no replacing someone like Devon Levi, the person. The individual who puts in the work on and off the ice; who is even happier when his teammates thrive and success than when he himself does; the person who captivates his audience night in, night out, and generates movie-star like reactions from fans and the hockey world near and far alike. There’s no replacing a person like this, but the legacy that Devon Levi created and the expectation that he set for himself and for this program will live on and thrive for years to come, as Northeastern continues its ascension in the collegiate hockey world and Devon starts his journey into the National Hockey League.
There may never be an easier player to root for at Northeastern than Devon Levi, and there may never be an easier player to root for on their NHL journey than Devon Levi. Northeastern fans and Northeastern University are lucky to have been able to watch him for two seasons, and we’re all grateful for the ride he took us on. And we can’t wait to watch Levi’s star shine even brighter under the lights of the big stage.
Congratulations, Devon. And thank you.