SUNRISE, Fla. — For one day at least, a Floridian hockey player stole the spotlight from the game’s future stars.
On the same day the NHL announced the Florida Panthers would host the 2015 NHL Draft, Cypress Bay High School’s Jake Levy drew national attention for a shootout move difficult to execute by even the best professionals.
During a 6-2 win over Flanagan High School, Levy skated wide on a penalty shot attempt, and as he cut across the crease, dipped his stick between his legs and roofed the shot over goalie Kyle Hebron.
"I just thought about it, doing it to be different, and then our captain said ‘Go through your legs’ as a joke." Levy told FoxSportsFlorida.com. "So I thought about it, maybe I should because I’ve been working on it all my life. The goalie gave me the opening and I went through my legs, and thankfully it went in."
The video, shot by Jake Winderman for Cypress Bay TV’s "Aftershock" program, posted the video to YouTube and it went viral.
"I never tried in a game, but I practiced [the move] in shootouts, but never attempted it in a game," Levy said.
After the goal Hebron said he told Levy, " ‘That was dirty,’ in the way that dirty means amazing."
Two NHLers known to have accomplished the trick shot are former New York Rangers defenseman Marek Malik and San Jose Sharks rookie Thomas Hertl. Levy said he studied their moves.
"I told him it was unreal at the next whistle," Hebron told FoxSportsFlorida.com via Twitter. "He’s on my travel team, so I knew he was good, but I didn’t see that one coming."
Hebron and Levy are teammates on the U16 AA Golden Wolves travel team based in Pembroke Pines, Fla.
The Panthers invited Levy to Tuesday’s game against the New York Islanders and showed the highlight of his goal on the scoreboard during the first period.
Panthers coach Peter Horachek said he thinks the attention is great for youth hockey in South Florida.
"[It] brings attention to more people who want to get involved with youth hockey in the area," Horachek said. "It’s good to have young players who are having an opportunity. A lot of times they have to move away to continue to improve. It’s nice to have people locally who are getting some attention."
Through 16 games in the Florida Scholastic Hockey League, Levy has 15 goals and 34 assists for the Lightning. No player has been drafted from the league into the NHL. But with more junior, college and pro teams looking in non-traditional markets for prospects, perhaps Levy’s highlight will open the door for players from Florida.
Scott Luce, Florida’s director of scouting, said the team has not scouted players on teams in the South Florida area but keeps track of locals when they move on to higher levels of hockey elsewhere in the U.S. and Canada.
"It’s something I would like to do," Levy said of playing junior- or college-level hockey. "Right now, I think the story is going to die out a bit, everything will calm down. Obviously this can’t hurt me, hurt my chance of going on to play hockey. I hope it gets me somewhere."
Unfortunately for Levy, he is not draft eligible until 2016. He was born in December 1997, making him months shy of the NHL’s September deadline to be selected in Sunrise, just miles from his hometown of Weston, Fla.
Hebron, born in January 1997, is a little less optimistic about possibly naming hearing his name called in Sunrise: "I think Jake just shattered all hopes of me being drafted!"