After a few week hiatus, I’m back to talk about one of the Calgary Flames most highly touted prospects in Dustin Wolf.
While the Flames selected Wolf with their final selection in the seventh round, 214th overall in the 2019 draft, Wolf is near the top of the Flames prospects pool. Now you might be asking; ‘how does a goaltender who goes in the seventh round have so much hype around him?’ Well, the simple answer is that Wolf only went that late because of his size. According to eliteprospects.com, Wolf is listed at 6’0, 157 pounds. For comparisons sake, current Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom is listed at 6’6 and 205 pounds so Wolf is considered to be small by NHL goaltending standards. The average height of goaltenders in the NHL currently is 6’2, with the shortest being Pittsburgh’s Casey DeSmith who is listed at 6‘0 and the tallest being Dallas’ Ben Bishop at 6’7.
Regardless of Wolf’s size, he has proven time and time again that he knows how to stop the puck at an elite level. Since joining the Western Hockey League’s Everett Silvertips in the 2017-18 season, Wolf has posted gaudy numbers. In his first season, he backed up future NHL starter Carter Hart, playing in 20 games going 13-6 while posting a 2.25 goals-against-average and a .928 save percentage to go along with four shutouts. Not bad hey? Well, as it turns out, that was Wolf’s worst season as a member of the Silvertips. He followed his rookie campaign up by taking over the Everett net going 41-15-4 in 61 games while posting an eye popping 1.69 goals-against-average and .936 save percentage and seven shutouts. The next two seasons, he played in 46 and 22 games (due to the COVID-19 pandemic) respectively and posted the following stat line in those years: 34-10-2, 1.88 goals-against-average, .935 save percentage and nine shutouts en route to the WHL and CHL Goaltender of the Year Awards and then 18-3 with a .940 save percentage, 1.80 goals-against-average and four shutouts this season. Wolf’s 24 career shutouts will finish just two back of the WHL record held by Tyson Sexsmith, formerly of the Vancouver Giants and his former teammate Carter Hart. Had the WHL played their normal 68 game season instead of the shortened 24, Wolf almost surely would have broken the record and then some. Wolf also appeared in 11 playoff games, going 5-4-1, posting a .914 save percentage and a 2.02 goals-against-average. On top of all these accomplishments, the Gilroy, California native also suited up for the United States at two World Junior Hockey Championships, helping the States win gold at this past years tournament in Edmonton. He also played three games for the Stockton Heat, going 2-1 with a 3.24 goals-against-average and an .895 save percentage.
While Wolf has a lot of positives to his game, some scouting experts such as Joel Henderson of Dobber Prospects, feel like Wolf could improve in some areas of his game in order to reach the NHL level. “I’d just say he sits lower in the butterfly which helps him move laterally but it does leave a little bit more of the top of the net exposed and as you move into pro hockey, players can take advantage of that a little more. Same things (Tyler) Parsons had to adjust to. His positioning and athleticism is strong from what I can see.”
The Flames will be set in goal for the next couple of seasons at least, with five years remaining on Jacob Markstrom’s contract that he signed in the fall. This will allow Wolf to get his feet wet at the professional level with Stockton, play a ton of games and eventually join the big club in two or three years. There really isn’t a need to rush him to the NHL level at this point in time. With that said, it’s hard for Flames fans not to get excited about one of the best goaltending prospects in hockey.