It was over a decade ago, as a student at the Hebrew Foundation School in Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Quebec, when Devon Levi became intrigued by computer science. His father, Laurent, was a software engineer by trade and the world of coding and artificial intelligence appeared to have boundless potential.
And, as Levi transitioned from the Hebrew Foundation School to West Island College, a secular private school with a vibrant Jewish population, he grew even more enamored with computer science, so much so that he decided to make it his major when he enrolled in Boston’s Northeastern University.
“I thought that would be a really good opportunity to work my brain a little and see if I can figure it out,” said Levi.
But by virtue of being one of the hottest goaltending prospects in North America, Levi has had to work nearly every other part of his body on the hockey rink over the past couple winters while mastering such high-tech wizardry in the classroom.
“There’s a bug in your code and you got to figure out what the problem is to make it run more efficiently—same thing [with hockey],” said Levi. “There could be little hiccups in your game, a few bugs in your game that you want to get out so that you can be more efficient, or you can play a little bit better or a little bit smarter or just have a little bit more energy.”
Throughout his sparkling career, there haven’t been many hiccups or bugs in Levi’s goaltending. Last year, as a sophomore, the Quebec native, upon guiding Northeastern to its first-ever Hockey East regular-season championship with his school-record 10 shutouts—a particularly noteworthy feat as he missed a month midseason to represent Canada in the Winter Olympics—captured the Mike Richter Award as the nation’s top goaltender and was named the national Rookie of the Year by the Hockey Coaches Association (he was sidelined his entire freshman year after suffering a rib injury in helping Team Canada earn silver at the 2021 World Junior Championship.)
This winter, Levi, whose NHL rights belong to the Buffalo Sabres after he was traded by the Florida Panthers, and the Northeastern Huskies have been hovering around .500. Northeastern head coach Jerry Keefe still refers to Levi as “the best goaltender in the country,” but even Levi can’t deny that, at least on paper, there’s been moderate slippage in his performance when compared to last year.
“It’s been a great season—a lot of adversity,” said Levi. “You got to love it. You got to love the ups and downs.”
The first week of 2023 included both. On New Year’s Day against Harvard, Levi suffered one of his worst personal defeats as the Crimson blitzed him for eight goals in an 8-4 setback. But less than a week later against the University of Connecticut Huskies at the old-timey Fenway Park for the season’s marquee “Frozen Fenway” showdown, Levi was once again masterful, stopping 28 of 29 shot attempts as Northeastern rolled to a potentially season-altering 4-1 victory.
“Everyone always says that he [Levi] is the best goaltender in the country for a reason,” said left wing Aidan McDonough, Northeastern’s premier offensive player, after Levi’s bounce-back performance. “He just works harder than anybody that I’ve ever met. You saw some tough bounces last weekend [against Harvard]. He’s the first guy in the gym, first guy in the rink, right back at it on Monday. We weren’t surprised to see him play like that. He’s played like that for us many times. It was good to see him get some confidence going again.”
Keefe seconds that notion.
“We have all the confidence in the world in Levi,” said the Northeastern coach. “He [Levi] knows how to respond and if anything, he looked at it [performance against Harvard] like, hey, this is part of development, this is good for me to go through it.”
Playing for Northeastern University means not only playing at Fenway Park, the same ballfield that Babe Ruth and Ted Williams once graced, as Levi noted, “it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was one of the coolest games we’ve ever played. I felt like we were part of something bigger than just that game. We made a memory that will last a lifetime”; but also, in Boston’s famed Beanpot Tournament every February and in the NCAA Tournament, which Northeastern qualified for last season. And it also means balancing a full course load while enrolled at one of the country’s most rigorous academic institutions. And there aren’t many majors that are more time-intensive than computer science.
“It’s definitely been challenging to be a student-athlete in that program, but I think it’s made me a better time manager, better problem solver, and a better person,” noted Levi.
In the coming months, he will have to make a decision that legions of Northeastern Huskies and Buffalo Sabres fans are surely awaiting: does he return for his senior year or embark on his pro career? Naturally, like the overwhelming majority of star collegiate athletes in his situation, he’s noncommittal, content to let things play out as they will. But there’s little doubt that he will be donning an NHL uniform one day and while the computer science education has been a solid choice, there’s no machine learning or artificial intelligence project in the universe that will divert his attention from the rink.
“Playing is obviously the No. 1 goal and nothing is getting in the way of that. There’s nothing else you’d rather do.”
- David Ostrowsky
- Hebrew Foundation School
- Devon Levi
- Computer Science
- West Island College
- Northeastern University
- Winter Olympics
- Mike Richter Award
- Hockey Coaches Association
- Buffalo Sabres
- Florida Panthers
- Northeastern Huskies
- University of Connecticut Huskies
- Frozen Fenway
- Aidan McDonough
- Babe Ruth
- Ted Williams
- Beanpot Tournament
- NCAA Tournament