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After spending most of 2008-09 with the Midget Majors, Austin Levi develops into an NHL draft pick

All last season, it was well known that Tyler Seguin was going to be taken in the 2010 National Hockey League Entry Draft. In the end, it was a debate whether he'd go first or second overall. When the time came, the Boston Bruins took Seguin after the Edmonton Oilers selected Windsor’s Taylor Hall.


The 2010 NHL Entry Draft was a little less certain for Whalers defenseman Austin Levi. Rated 117th overall in the NHL Central Scouting Bureau’s mid-term rankings, Levi finished 156th overall after scoring three goals with nine assists for 12 points in 68 games and a +10 rating in his first full season with the Whalers.


Levi’s final Central Scouting ranking didn’t stop Carolina from selecting him in the third round (85th overall) in Los Angeles.


The Hurricanes’ selection of Levi in the third round might be seen as a surprise to some, but Tony MacDonald – Carolina’s  Director of Amateur Scouting and the original general manager of the Whalers in their expansion season of 1990-91 – feels otherwise.


“He can handle the puck and he can make plays with the puck, but his tendency is to focus, concentrate on defense, and he does that pretty well,” said MacDonald of Levi. “He’s an example of a good shut-down guy who was always matched up against the other team’s top offensive lines and did a great job in handling them.”

“He’s able to play physically, but doesn’t take a lot of penalties as a result,” said MacDonald. “He’s one of those guys that can play a tough physical game and doesn’t have to be sitting in the box.”

See and hear MacDonald's comments about Levi at the NHL Entry Draft

If fans were surprised that Levi went in the third round, Austin was surprised as well, saying so at the draft when interviewed by the Hurricanes.

“It was incredible,” Levi said. “I can’t really describe the feeling, but it was a great experience to go through the draft in Los Angeles and get called in the third round (85th overall). It was a complete surprise. I was really excited to be drafted by the Hurricanes. The media thing was new to me and it was kind of a shock, so I was in shock the entire day in Los Angeles. The entire experience was an eye-opener.”


After splitting time with the Compuware midget majors and the Whalers in 2008-09, Levi played a regular shift last season and was voted by the coaching staff as the Most Improved Player on the team.


Levi’s improved play came as a result of experience and confidence. 


“The coaches had a lot of confidence in me,” Levi explained. “They’d put me out there and I’d make mistakes and they kept putting me out there. As the year went on, I felt a lot more comfortable on the ice, so I was able to make plays that I wouldn’t have made otherwise, so confidence comes with experience.”


Reflecting back at last season, Levi sees the year as a stepping stone.


“Last year, I got a chance to show what I can do and play well defensively,” he said. “It was something I took pride in. I wanted to show everyone that I could be a part of this team. When I was playing with the midget majors, it was (a situation) where I had to work really hard and step up to the next level to play with the Whalers.


“Now, it’s all about stepping up to the next level and playing in the National Hockey League. It’s something that I take seriously.”


As a newly drafted player, Levi attended the Hurricanes Development Camp from July 7-10. If Levi received a little taste of NHL life last season when Carolina visited Plymouth on January 13, he received a main course of NHL life at the camp.


“The Development Camp was even more of an eye-opener than the NHL Draft,” Levi explained. “It was stressed to work hard and take care of all of our responsibilities off the ice before you can even begin to think about your on-ice responsibilities. All the hard work they do in Carolina – and all the preparation they go through to be an NHL player was definitely an eye-opener.”


Levi comes into the 2010-11 season with the third most games-played amongst Whalers defensemen with 80, behind Josh Bemis (153) and Beau Schmitz (134).  With veterans Leo Jenner and Michal Jordan moving on, Levi may take a bigger role this season in Plymouth.


“We’ll definitely have a younger team this year, but I like our chances,” Levi said. “I think we’re going to have a very hard working team. We’ll have good leadership with (James) Livingston and (Robbie) Czarnik (if he comes back) and Tyler Brown, too. We’ll have a good mix of overagers and young guys. We’ll be younger, but we’ll get the job done.”


“I definitely want to work on my offensive game this year. I want to prove that I can play an offensive-style of game as well as take care of all of my defensive responsibilities first.”


See Levi's first OHL goal here


MEURS, RAKELL TO THE HLINKA: With Whalers training camp set for September 1, it won’t be long before Garrett Meurs and Rickard Rakell will be playing together for Plymouth, but in the short term, they’ll be opposing one another at the 2010 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka Tournament that takes place August 9-14 in Breclav, Czech Republic and Piestany, Slovakia. Meurs has been named to Team Canada; Rakell will play for Sweden for the second straight year. The two players faced each other at the 2010 World Under-17 Challenge last season when Meurs helped Team Ontario to a silver medal, while Rakell and the Swedes earned bronze.


SEGUIN SIGNS WITH BOSTON: The Bruins reached an agreement with Tyler Seguin on an entry level contract. Per club policy, financial terms of the deal are not disclosed.


If Seguin does not make the Bruins NHL roster out of the club’s upcoming training camp, he must be returned to his junior team in Plymouth per the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.





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