Talented Israeli hockey player moving up quickly

Taken from http://www.cjnews.com/?q=node%2F136309

Photo David Levin playing for the Don Mills Flyers ( From http://www.cjnews.com/?q=node%2F136309 )

TORONTO — If you check the bios of current NHL players, you’ll find places of birth that would have astonished pro scouts from days gone by. Forget Timmins and Flin Flon. Today’s hockey players come from places like Margate, Fla., Phoenix, Ariz., and Las Vegas, Nev.

Not a snow-covered mining town among them, so if we’re talking sub-tropical locations, why not throw Netanya in northern Israel into the mix?

 

David Levin, 15, hails from that ice-challenged locale, but his superior talent and dedication have vaulted his name to the top ranks of potential draftees into the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), one of Canada’s three premiere major junior leagues.

As a highly regarded right winger with the Don Mills Flyers AAA minor midget team, Levin is eligible to be drafted into the OHL, where he’ll develop his skills with the world’s best junior-aged players. It’s a stepping stone – a tall one, with many chances to stumble and fall – to the National Hockey League.

But Levin is determined to be among the best in his sport. He’s been like that since he was eight years old and got his first exposure to North American hockey on TV back home. His father, Pavel, had immigrated from Latvia, where he played pro soccer and was an avid sportsman. One evening, David asked his father what sport he was watching. “It’s the NHL,” his father told him, “the best hockey league in the world.”

The next day, he told his dad, “That’s where I want to play, too.” Today he’s just as determined: “I want to go as far as I can and make my dream come true, to play in the NHL.”

Many kids share the dream, but as a potential OHL first pick, Levin is on the right track. At the Titans Minor Midget Tourney, in December, he won the scoring title, with seven goals and seven assists in eight games.

Last week the Flyers, the top-ranked minor midget team in Ontario, began a seven-game series with the Toronto Marlboros in the GTHL championship. Levin got a goal. In March, the Flyers, the number 1-ranked team in Ontario, will participate in the OHL Cup, a showcase for top players on 20 top minor midget teams, which attracts OHL scouts by the bushel.

“I have to show up and play good,” he said.

Darren Ferris, Levin’s agent, is confident Levin will be an early selection in the OHL draft. Ferris said he’s been around lots of top players who’ve gone on to careers in major junior and the NHL. Levin handles himself the same way as the stars, he said.

Ferris marvels at Levin’s ability, pointing out he’s only been playing on ice for three years, yet he dominates play. “He’s a very special player. He sees the ice very well,” he said. “If you look at the skill level of kids eligible for the draft, he’s the most talented.”

When you speak to Levin, the teen sounds mature beyond his years. He’s willing to put in the hard work to excel, and he’s got the mental toughness to overcome obstacles.

He’s always been a top player. In Israel, he played in his father’s inline hockey league and excelled. From his home in Netanya, he made it to the Canada Centre rink in Metullah only a few times a year, so most of his hockey experience was the dry-land variety. Three times at inline tournaments in Europe he was named MVP. 

From his performance in inline tournaments, it was clear he had special talent. 

Three years ago, Levin moved to Canada to develop those skills. He lives with his aunt and uncle. The transition from skating on asphalt to ice was difficult, but manageable, he said. The transition from life in Israel with his parents to life in a new country, with a new culture and language was more difficult. And he was only 12.

David communicated with his folks at home via Skype and he visited regularly, but it was still very difficult, said his aunt, Alla Tovberg. “It was a very hard decision for his mother,” Tovberg said.

Not speaking English was a barrier as well.

“It was a very hard adjustment, the new environment, the snow. It was completely different than Israel,” she said. “And he had to adjust to a new family.”

Levin’s uncle, Yafim, drives him to games and practices, and Alla marvels at how dedicated David is to his sport.

He’s on the ice five times a week, adding gym training to his routine. He’s always thinking of ways to help his team. And even in the summer, when he takes time away from hockey, he’s never too far from it. “There’s not a day that I’m not doing something with my stick,” he said. 

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Category: Ice Hockey