Often when teams end up with the first overall pick in the OHL Draft, it’s not the result of positive on-ice performance. The backhanded reward of obtaining the first overall pick is aimed to help a team regain their footing with a premium asset. David Levin was that backhanded reward for the struggling Sudbury Wolves at the 2015 OHL Draft. Since then, he’s taken the Canadian Junior ranks by storm.
Levin was somewhat of an anomaly in the hockey world when he was selected in 2015. Unlike many hockey superstars who have been on ice since they were in diapers, Levin had only learned how to skate on ice two years previous. Born in Israel, Levin only played roller hockey until the age of 12. It was only upon moving to Canada that he transferred his skills onto the ice.
Now two years removed from the draft, the former Don Mills Flyers forward and his Sudbury team have seen significant improvements. Coming into the post-season, Levin followed up his OHL rookie points total of 30 with a sophomore surge that consisted of 53-points (18G, 35A) in 66 games.
“It’s a different game. My first year was a lot harder because it’s a lot faster and its harder against bigger guys,” explained Levin. “When you get to playoffs, I like this game because guys play hard and you can really compete and I like to play this way.”
Wolves Head coach David Matsos admits he feels Levin has a natural gift for the game.
“He’s got creativity he’s got a strong mind and thinks the game, a lot more elite than a lot of players and mean it’s a gift obviously,” said Matsos. “He hasn’t been playing competitively for very long and for him to come in and do what he’s doing, it’s a special case for sure.”
The speed and creativity of the Israeli native was demonstrated in the Wolves’ five-game playoff series versus the Oshawa Generals. When asked about the chemistry he’s developed with his teammates after the game, one commonality comes to the surface.
“We’re all from Europe,” said Levin, who speaks Russian and Hebrew in addition to English. “You do nice things, you do fake shots, you pass the puck, play behind each other and support each other and that’s what happened” explained the setup man for the trio on the Wolves goal.
Dmitri Sokolov, a Russian, and Alan Lyszczarczyk, a native of the Czech Republic, along with Levin, had a combined 15 points in their five games against the Generals. According to Matos, the trio spends a lot of time off together off the ice. which has helped them build their familiarity with one another.
The Wolves fell to the Generals in the first round of the OHL playoffs, 4-2, with Levin averaging a point per game in the series. Because of his September 16th birthday, Levin is among the company of players like Auston Matthews and John Tavares as players who narrowly missed being in an earlier NHL draft class. The extra time for development is only beneficial to the budding star in the eyes of his coach.
“You don’t know where he will ceiling out because he’s still just trying to adjust to systems and coverages but when he’s got the puck on his stick he’ll put you on your heels,” said Matsos.
“His hands, his vision and his brain, they all kind of work together. I think it’s one of those things where it’s going to get stronger with his lower body as he gets his skating up, so there’s an area of improvement and just the adjustment to the system play and the structure that gets implemented in the OHL.”