Calgary FlamesProspects

Breaking down Dustin Wolf’s incredible junior career

And that’s all she wrote. After 22 games this season with the Everett Silvertips, Dustin Wolf was unable to break the all-time WHL shutout record. He ends with 24 total shutouts, just two shy of the all-time record of 26 held by Tyson Sexsmith. Wolf reached this milestone in just 149 games, 30 fewer than Sexsmith. This wraps up Wolf’s junior hockey career, and he will almost certainly be playing in Stockton come the fall. Let’s break down just how good he has been.

Season by season

Wolf started in Everett in the 2017-18 season, backing up current Philadelphia Flyers’ nextminder Carter Hart. Wolf played in 20 games that season, putting up a very good .928 save percentage and a 2.25 goals against average. While he was less good than Hart, he still finished second in save percentage in the entire league as a rookie netminder.

The following season, with Hart joining the Flyers’ system, Wolf jumped in naturally as the starter, playing in 61 WHL games. He again finished second in the league with a very impressive 1.69 GAA and a .936 save percentage. He was behind just Max Palaga, who only played in 13 games that season. Wolf also missed out on the CHL’s Goaltender of the Year Award, losing out to the WHL’s third best netminder, Ian Scott.

However, Wolf picked up accolades as the WHL’s Scholastic Player of the Year, for excelling academically. This award is named after former Flames’ owner Daryl “Doc” Seaman. He also picked up the CHL’s Scholastic Player of the Year Award that season. Interestingly, the Scholastic Award was previously won by Connor McDavid in 2013-14 and 2014-15.

This was the year he was drafted by the Flames. Despite being incredible for two years in the WHL, he was ranked 12th among North American netminders, likely because of his size. Wolf was expected to go somewhere midway through the draft but fell quite far. He was finally selected with the fourth last pick of the entire draft by the Flames. To say that this has looked like a steal would be an understatement.

Going into the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season, Wolf was once again back at his best, putting up a .935 save percentage and a 1.88 GAA. Once again, he was second league-wide, finishing less than 0.01 behind Max Paddock in save percentage, but having played 27 more games. He finally picked up the WHL and CHL Goaltender of the Year Awards as the top netminder.

Following the season, Wolf signed his entry-level contract with the Calgary Flames, with the signing and media availability happening from home as opposed to from the Saddledome due to the ongoing pandemic. To hear some of his thoughts from this summer, check out our chat with him here.

With the ongoing pandemic, Wolf started his season with the Stockton Heat in Calgary, featuring in three games for the team. While the Toronto Marlies gave him an incredibly rude welcoming to the league, putting five goals past him on 11 shots, he rebounded substantially in his second and third games. In those two final games, he allowed a combined three goals on 65 shots and helped the team win both.

As good as he was looking, the CHL-NHL Agreement compelled him to return to the WHL as the Silvertips started their season. He absolutely made the most of his time. Wolf played in 22 of the team’s 23 games, helping them win the WHL’s US Division. He finishing with a .940 save percentage and a 1.80 GAA, again good for second in the league. Only the draft eligible Sebastian Cossa finished ahead of him in save percentage by 0.01. Again, Wolf played more games than his competitor. Here is a full breakdown of all of his numbers.

YearGames playedGoals Against AverageSave PercentageShutouts
2017-1820 (42nd)2.25 (2nd)0.928 (2nd)4
2018-1961 (T-1)1.69 (2nd)0.936 (2nd)7
2019-2046 (8)1.88 (2nd)0.935 (2nd)9
2020-2122 (1st)1.80 (2nd)0.940 (2nd)4

While he was unable to pick up the all-time shutout record, he picked up 18 wins and won his final four games. This final stretch was played over six days, including three games in four nights. Wolf was the engine behind the Silvertips’ successful season, and was used like Miikka Kiprusoff was through the mid-2000s by the Flames.

What’s next for Wolf?

Wolf will probably pick up a few more awards as he finishes his junior hockey career. From there, expect him to join the Stockton Heat again in the fall and fight for starts there. The Flames already have Tyler Parsons and Artyom Zagidulin in net for the Heat, and had a great run from Andrew Shortridge and Garret Sparks this season. As good as Wolf has been, do not expect him just to be gifted the starting job. That being said, if he can continue to perform the way that he did in his trial run earlier in the season, he will fight hard for the starting job this summer.

From there, the sky is the limit for him. Best case scenario, he plays incredibly well next year and the Flames begin to experiment with him as the their backup netminder. The more realistic scenario is that Wolf takes a couple of seasons in Stockton, and assuming he performs, the Flames slowly work him into the backup role. However, the Flames have been burned (no pun intended) time and again by “goalies of the future” who do not work out, so take these predictions with a grain of salt.

The Flames have Jacob Markstrom signed long-term with a no-movement clause, so this at least gives the Flames some time to decide their future plans in the crease. Unlike the Flyers with Hart, there is an experienced netminder, who has performed reasonably well this season.

In a perfect world, this is how the Flames’ goaltending would play out just looking at Markstrom and Wolf. Keep in mind Zagidulin and Parsons are still around, and can’t be discounted from the Flames’ future goaltending projections.

NHL StarterNHL BackupAHL StarterAHL Backup

For Wolf, the goal next season will be to try and replicate his two better games with the Heat, and continue that over the course of a whole season. Barring a trade, it is almost certain that Wolf will be one of the Heat’s goalies next season, but he will no doubt be challenged for the starting goalie role. Next season will be critical for his path forward towards the NHL. If he can continue to be stellar in the crease next season, the Flames’ goaltending future looks very bright.

Back to top button