Heading into the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, goaltender Dustin Wolf wasn’t on many NHL teams’ radars despite posting an incredible 1.69 goals-against average (GAA) along with a .936 save percentage (SV%) in 61 appearances with the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League (WHL). The biggest knock on him at the time was his size, which scared many teams away.
With their final pick at 214th overall, however, the Calgary Flames chose to give the undersized netminder a chance. Since then, the now 21-year-old has only continued to get better, and is quickly making many teams around the league regret not selecting him in any of the six rounds prior.
Wolf Tearing Up AHL
After being drafted, Wolf returned to the Silvertips for two more seasons, where he continued to post ridiculous stat lines. Still, many continued to remain hesitant given his 6-foot, 156-pound stature, and questioned how he would do when it came to transitioning to the professional game.
Many of those doubts were quickly erased in his first professional season in 2021-22. He immediately became the starting goaltender for the Stockton Heat, and by the time his rookie campaign wrapped up, he had another incredible stat line that featured a 2.35 GAA along with a .924 SV% in 47 games. As a result, he quickly propelled up on the list of the Flames’ top prospects, though some still remained skeptical, wanting to see if it was a great, one-year showing, or a sign of what was to come.
Any that remained skeptical of Wolf have quickly been silenced, as he has somehow found a way to be even better in 2022-23. After a few shaky starts to begin the season, he has quickly established himself as an elite goaltender at the American Hockey League (AHL) level. He was recently awarded goaltender of the month for December after compiling a .941 SV% along with an 8-1-0 record, improving his season totals to a 2.09 GAA and a .932 SV% in 24 appearances.
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Both his GAA and SV% rank among the best of his competitors, while his four shutouts lead the league, as do his 19 wins. It has been an incredible first half of the season for a goalie who, all of a sudden, is heavily regarded as the Flames’ top prospect, and arguably the top goaltending prospect in the entire NHL.
“He just kind of goes about his business. He’s a work horse for us,” Calgary Wranglers head coach Mitch Love recently said on Flames Talk with Pat Steinberg. “His preparation really leads to his execution out there. Not surprised, the numbers you just read me are outstanding. Obviously, he’s a big reason for our season turnaround here early on.”
Wolf On His Way to Becoming Franchise Goaltender
While it is still very early in Wolf’s career, he is showing all the signs of a goaltender who has the ability to become a true star at the NHL level. Of course, he has not yet appeared in any NHL action, but he has continually put up elite numbers at every level throughout his career to this point, and is still very young.
The luxury for the Flames when it comes to Wolf is that there is no real reason to rush him in his development. Though neither Jacob Markstrom nor Dan Vladar have had outstanding seasons, they are both very capable NHL netminders who should be able to pick things up in the second half of the 2022-23 campaign.
As for when Wolf will get his opportunity, that remains to be seen. Markstrom still seems to be the starting netminder for this Flames team for the foreseeable future given that he has three more seasons after 2022-23 on his contract, though perhaps that could change moving forward with the continued emergence of Wolf. As for Vladar, he was recently signed to a two-year extension in October, proving both management and coaching staff are comfortable with him as their back up for the time being.
Regardless of when that time comes for Wolf, he should continue to remain the number one prospect in this organization. He was simply an outstanding steal for the Flames in the seventh round, and is only continuing to get better. Fans of this organization should be very excited for what the future holds in terms of their goaltending.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.