During the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, 217 players were selected. It took all the way until the 214th pick, nearly at the end of the seven round before goaltender Dustin Wolf was selected by the Calgary Flames. After his 2018-19 campaign with the Everett Silvertips, Wolf’s resume was as impressive as they come for goaltenders. He posted 41 wins in 61 games played, along with seven shutouts and a 93.6% save percentage, which was the best in the CHL.
Our team had a chance to catch up with Wolf on how things have gone for him since being drafted by the Flames, what he has been doing to stay in shape over the past few months, and what his plans are for the upcoming season and beyond.
On the NHL Draft
Wolf was considered a major seventh round steal after being passed over by team after team, round after round. But when the Flames finally announced his name, he was relieved: “I didn’t expect it to last super long, mid-round was expected. Sitting in the seventh round you’re second guessing yourself, like what’s going on? Emotions took over when Calgary called me. They’ve taken me under their wing and it’s been great.”
Despite being the fourth-last selection in the draft, Wolf has stayed motivated and put together a phenomenal 2019-20 campaign with the Silvertips, winning the CHL Goaltender of the Year award along the way. He’s out to keep the skeptics at bay, and he’s clearly getting the job done. “I have to continue to prove that size doesn’t matter,” he said when asked if he still feels like he has anything left to prove. “Lots of coaches and GMs who think size is everything, and that’s their opinion.”
For himself, Wolf’s plan is clear: “I’m going to continue to do what I’m doing. Clean up a few areas of my game and simplify a bit. It’s a process, not everything is going to go your way, so just have to continue doing what I do.”
On his training
Wolf’s training is something he prides himself on. Stay fit and physical is a part of his routine and what he’s done over the extended break due to COVID-19. “Today, I spent two and half hours in the gym before I even skated. With the little time you have, you have to make the most of it. It’s a different scenario now I’m trying to break down details to my game when on the ice.”
A unique outcome of the pandemic experience for Wolf was his extended stay in Stockton. He was staying in Hollister, California with his family, but was close enough to Stockton to work with the Heat’s goaltending and strength and conditioning coaches. “[Thomas] Speer said ‘come coach with me,’ so I went there for a couple weeks.” He also put in work with Rick Davis as a part of his training too. The experience of being a Flames prospect has been positive for Wolf, as he says his relationship with the goalie coaches have been good, including with Jordan Sigalet.
The Flames are clearly invested in him, and hope he can continue building on his impressive body of work so far. Wolf aims to impress too, as when asked what makes him standout, his immediate answer was his athletic ability: “[My] athleticism. I take a lot of pride staying as flexible as possible. The last few years [I’ve tried to] dial in being as composed as I can. It’s a work in progress for sure, but it’s nice to extend the legs and make saves I probably shouldn’t.”
On the U.S. National Junior Team
Preparing his game at all levels of play is something he’s grown accustomed to. Recently attending the U.S. National Junior Team Evaluation Camp, Wolf talks about his return to the ice alongside teammates. “It was good to back into a similar routine, getting into a game day routine even though it’s just a scrimmage.” Of course, attending camp this time around was quite different for Wolf and the rest of the team.
“It was good. Different from previous years. Very limited in terms of what you do. You’re there for five, six days or so, and we skated nine, maybe ten times. It was super busy skating twice a day.” The experience was positive for him though, as it brought back some normalcy and a sense of competition that was missing over the past few months. “[There were] tons of good shooters out there so you make on mistake and they’ll make you pay. Hopefully we can come together in December for another gold medal.”
The camp also gave Wolf a chance to see some familiar faces, where he spoke highly of the other goaltenders as well as a Flames prospect. “A few guys had really good camps, I thought all three of us goalies played exceptionally well. I thought Josh Nodler, a good buddy of mine, did fairly well as well. It’s good to see those guys play well, especially the college guys.”
On his own journey in hockey
Wolf dons the number 32 on his sweater when suiting up for the Silvertips. “It stems from the Johnny Quick era from L.A. I was in L.A. for their two cup runs and he’s a staple of their franchise. I kind of stuck with it, might get a chance to stick with it in Calgary.”
But the number is just one aspect of Wolf’s identity. He says he models his game after different goaltenders and not just Jonathan Quick. “I like to pick and choose parts from everyone’s games. Quick’s athleticism, most bendy guy in the league. Mike Smith‘s puck handling. Carey Price‘s composure. Juuse Saros is shorter than I am but he utilises his size and stays on his edges really well.”
Wolf’s game is uniquely his, and it has paid dividends for him. When asked what it meant to win the Goaltender of the Year award out of the CHL, he said it doesn’t change anything. “I think from my two starting years in the Western [Hockey] League, I just take it one day at a time and put [my] best foot forward each day. I didn’t play a ton in year one, so I had to make everything count. As a starter and playing a ton of games, you see new things and you can pick apart players’ games.”
For Wolf to win such a prestigious award in the CHL, he immediately set his eyes on the next step. Heading back to Everett for one final season, he aims to be consistent with his game, and recognises that he’s tasked to step up to be a leader, especially for the newcomers. “I want to be a guy you can rely on and be a leader in the room. Not a lot of guys in my first year are left so it’s on the older guys now to set the table and show the young guys what it takes.”
On top of winning goaltending awards, he’s also earned a few scholastic awards too, in which he credits his parents for their support. “I was fortunate to win the award but it helps to have help from my parents. Doing online school, you don’t really have access to teachers so they’re intelligent people who know how to help out when they need to.”
And now, as he focus more on hockey, he has new mentors and colleagues in the Calgary Flames system. “The coaches, mainly Sigalet and Speer, and strength coaches as well, we have regular communications. I also talk with [Tyler] Parsons. We hung out quite a bit at dev camp, and I was with Nick Schneider last year as well, a great dude who also played in the Western League. Hopefully, we’ll be in touch on a regular basis.”
On his next steps
“I want to continue to have success in Everett, have a strong year. I’d like to crack the Flames’ roster as soon as possible, so I’m going to do everything in my power to get myself there. It’ll probably be a couple years down in Stockton learning how to be a pro and living on my own. I’ll just go with the flow and see what happens.”
“Hopefully in a couple of years, I can suit up and put a couple of wins on the board.”
Thank you, Dustin, for chatting and answering our questions. Good luck heading into the next season, see you soon in Calgary!
Featured image designed by crowf / Freepik and modified by TWC.