Florida Panthers general manager Bill Zito has already shown that he was the man for the job after being hired this offseason. The Panthers will likely all be watching the game as their two future goalies will be battling it out for gold tonight at 9:30 P.M. EST. He drafted World Junior Championship (WJC) star Devon Levi in the seventh round of the 2020 draft. The Canadian netminder has put up incredible numbers in his first WJC tournament.
No matter who wins this gold medal game the real winners of the tournament are the Panthers; they have both starting goalies for the gold medal game and could even have a prospect win bronze as well. Anton Lundell, the Finnish captain, will go for bronze against the Russians.
Canadian head coach Andre Tourigny said the net was up for grabs between the three Canadian goalies Dylan Garand, Taylor Gauthier, and Levi at the beginning of training camp. Levi took the starting role after camp and ran with it. He has started in all six of Canadas games so far — he is 6-0 with a .975 save percentage (SV%) and a 0.53 goals against average (GAA), as well as three shutouts.
Some may suggest that Levi’s performance is a fluke because of how good the Canadian team is. Although the great team in front of him is limiting the shots he is facing, he has made countless incredible saves to keep Canada’s momentum going at all times. He has looked calm and has been able to stay square to the puck, thus limiting his rebounds.
Levi has saved 116 of 119 shots so far, and although the Canadian team is undoubtedly the best team in the tournament and possibly one of the greatest all-time, the United States should never be counted out when facing their archrival. Levi will definitely be facing his biggest test thus far.
USA’s Most Important Piece
If the United States want to win this game, they are going to need a huge performance from the Panthers’ top prospect, Spencer Knight. The American netminder struggled in his first game against the Russians as he let in four goals on 13 shots. After that game, backup goalie Dustin Wolf would start against Austria and post a 11-0 shutout. The USA turned back to Knight for games against the Czech Republic and Sweden where he shut the door in both games, winning 7-0 and 4-0. He also played well in the incredible game against Finland, making 33 saves in a 4-3 win.
Knight has looked sharp since the game against the Russians — in five games played he holds a 4-1 record with a 1.99 GAA and a .922 SV%. The Canadians have scored 41 goals this tournament and Knight will have to attempt to slow that scoring down if his team wants any chance at taking home gold. The Americans have scored 34 goals, so it will definitely be both goalies’ biggest test of the tournament.
Excitement For Florida Fans
Regardless of the outcome of this game, the Panthers organization should be extremely proud for their drafting efforts these past few seasons. They have their last two first-round picks (Knight, Lundell) competing in the medal rounds of the 2021 WJC and have a possible seventh-round gem in Levi competing for gold as the Canadian starting goalie.
If this tournament is any indication of the Panthers’ future goalie tandem, then Knight will have to work a lot harder than expected to win that starting job from Sergei Bobrovsky as he will have Levi right on his tail. The Panthers now have the perfect player to push Knight to the next level. Although these guys may be teammates down the road, the gold medal game will show nothing of the sort.