The Calgary Flames have not had a very good season. Even if they are able to sneak into the postseason, which is mathematically an uphill battle, there will still be a lot of disappointment associated with the 2022–23 campaign.
The Calgary Wranglers on the other hand deserve far more attention.
At this point in time, the Wranglers are the only AHL team to have clinched a playoff berth. They also lead the AHL in terms of points with 87 and a record of 42–15–3, which subsequently is the best in the Pacific Division. Although the Coachella Valley Firebirds may lead in terms of point percentage, the crown is currently held by the Calgary farm team.
A massive, massive reason for this is due to the play of the Flames’ best prospect: goaltender Dustin Wolf.
In his second full AHL season, the 2019 seventh round pick is putting up historical numbers that rival his previous record breaking season. For those that haven’t been taking notice, it’s time that more of the Calgary hockey fan base turns their attention to the Wranglers
Wolf’s AHL leading numbers
|Nearest Goalie||40 – Joel Hofer||23 – Joey Daccord||4 – Joel Hofer||2.28 – Hunter Shepard||0.925% – Brandon Bussi||2371:28 – Joel Hofer|
In every single statistical category, Dustin Wolf stands at the top.
Every. Single. One.
No goaltender has played more minutes, or registered more wins, and played as well as Wolf has this season for Calgary.
What is more significant is that even though he has started seven more games than the nearest goaltender (and played almost 400 minutes more), he still has the best statistical numbers in the AHL.
Take his GAA of 2.22—Hunter Shepard has the next best number at 2.28 but has only played in almost half of the games that Wolf has. Even if Shepard was to put up his current pace over another 24 games, he would still have a slightly worse ranking than Wolf.
The same can be said in SV%, where his 0.928% is still better than the next best goaltender who has also played 20 fewer games than Wolf.
It’s rare to have a goaltender put up these numbers over a 20 game stretch, let alone for 47 games over the course of a season.
During his 2021–22 season, in which Wolf was named the AHL’s best goaltender, he played exactly 47 games as well. His numbers were viewed as astronomically good at the time, and yet are statistically worse than they are this season:
Although Wolf has slightly lower overall ice time, he’s put up more shutouts and posted better GAA and SV% values in his second year.
He’s in line for some major awards recognition this season.
What’s next for Wolf and the Flames?
With the Wranglers playing so well, and hopefully a long Calder Cup Playoff run coming up for the team, it’s unlikely that we see Wolf in the NHL this season.
His dominance completely shifts the conversation for the Flames’ 2023–24 season.
There really isn’t much left at the AHL level that he needs to prove, so an NHL backup role makes the most sense. Does that mean the Flames look to move Dan Vladar or Jacob Markstrom to make room? It’s a conversation for the summer.
I do wonder if Wolf’s long-term career would benefit from a role like Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has this season. Playing in both the NHL and AHL due to him being waiver eligible, Luukkonen was able to gain additional experience while also giving the team flexibility.
Of course, carrying three goaltenders hasn’t worked for the Flames in the past.
Regardless, Dustin Wolf is putting the entire AHL and NHL on notice.
The Wolf is coming.
Photo by Candice Ward/Calgary Wranglers