2023 Calgary Flames Prospect Rankings: #1 Dustin Wolf

Coming in at the #1 spot in the 2023 Calgary Flames Prospect Rankings is two-time Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award winner for AHL goaltender of the year and Les Cunningham Award winner as the 2022–23 AHL MVP, is no other than Dustin Wolf. Going back-to-back as TWC’s #1 ranked prospect, Wolf was a unanimous number one selection this year. There is no doubt that the Flames number one prospect is in net, and he’s ready to challenge for an NHL spot at training camp next year.

Wolf’s development so far

Dustin Wolf has proved himself at every level in his career thus far. The California product has yet to have a season save percentage under .924 (min 20 GP) since joining the WHL’s Everett Silvertips in 2017.

Wolf commanded the net as a starter for the Silvertips, taking over for Carter Hart‘s role in 2018–19. That season Wolf had the best save percentage and goals against average in the WHL, while also taking home the CHL’s Scholastic Player of the Year Award. He was selected by the Flames in the seventh round, 214th overall.

Wolf followed that up returning to the WHL to play for Everett in 2019–20. Wolf again, was awarded the best save percentage and goals against average in the WHL with a .935 and 1.88 respectively. Additionally he took home the WHL, CHL and USA Junior Hockey goaltender of the year awards.

In 2020–21 Wolf made his AHL debut. Playing in only three games, he showed some turbulence, posting a save percentage of .895 and a goals against average of 3.28 in his first stint of pro hockey. His season was not for loss by any means as he once again improved his numbers in a shortened WHL season. Wolf posted a .940 save percentage and a 1.80 goals against average in 22 games, winning himself another WHL goaltender of the year award.

Wolf continued his success playing as the starter for the Stockton Heat in 2021–22, winning the AHL goaltender of the year award, leading the league with 33 wins. It was evident after last season that Dustin Wolf was the future of the Calgary Flames in net, but I don’t think anyone expected him to come out this past season and accomplish what he has.

Last season Wolf brought home the goaltender of the year award, as well as the AHL’s MVP award. Posting a league leading .932 save percentage and 2.09 goals against average. Oh, not to mention his AHL-leading seven shutouts and 42 wins. His 42 wins set him apart from the crowd, leading second place by 15 wins.

Wolf made his NHL debut in the final game of the season, playing the San Jose Sharks. The young goalie impressed against the team he grew up cheering for, idolizing Sharks legend Evgeni Nabokov. Wolf allowed one goal on 24 shots to record his first career NHL win.

Wolf’s strengths and weaknesses

Starting off the bat with Wolf’s biggest criticism throughout his whole career, size.

At 5’11” Dustin Wolf is a small goaltender in the modern NHL. Towering goalies like Connor Hellebuyck and Andrei Vasilevskiy are great examples of what every team wants. It makes sense, the bigger you are, the more area of the net you cover.

In Wolf’s case, this means his angles have to be perfect when taking on shots. Being smaller also has an advantage, typically you’re quicker and more agile. This highlight package from his preseason game against the Canucks last fall is a perfect example of Wolf showcasing how he makes up for his lack of size with incredible positioning, patience, and athleticism.

Wolf has a great mindset and focus when he plays, which have been proven by his consistent play. Consistency is a key to being an NHL starter, and if Wolf can maintain his play at the next level he will have a long and successful NHL career. In an elimination playoff performance, Wolf describes how felt playing on the road to close out the series.

To cap it off and further display his elite balance and body control, the guy jumps knees to chest before every start. What other hockey player, let alone goalie has anyone seen do this?

Wolf’s next steps

Quite simply with no delay: the NHL. The goaltending prospect has proven himself at every level when given the opportunity. He’s showcased his work ethic each season and steadily improved.

He has done everything that he can as an individual at the AHL level and it would be unwise to keep him off the NHL roster next season. This player is the future of your franchise and has the potential to carry this teams goaltending duties for the next 10 years.

Jacob Markstrom will most certainly begin the season as the Flames starter, and I’d hope he can carry that role throughout the season. Wolf can begin his NHL career behind an experienced veteran that’s played at a Vezina-calibre level. It’s a perfect situation for the 22-year-old to step into the NHL.

I think a realistic situation is Wolf starts 25+ games this season for the Flames. Wolf is stepping into a role where he needs to prove once again, he can perform. If his first career NHL start is any indication of how he might play, he will be just fine.

His size hasn’t been an issue yet and Juuse Saros of the Nashville Predators has already proven that undersized goalies can still be elite in today’s NHL. Whether the Flames are looking to rebuild, or contend, Dustin Wolf will be vital to the teams plans going forward.

Calgary Flames 2023 Top 10 Prospects

Honourable Mentions | #10 Arseni Sergeev | #9 Lucas Ciona | #8 Parker Bell | #7 Walker Duehr | #6 Matthew Phillips | #5 Jeremie Poirier | #4 Connor Zary | #3 Jakob Pelletier | #2 Matt Coronato | #1 Dustin Wolf

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