After drafting players from Quebec, Russia, Sweden and the United States in prior rounds, the Calgary Flames went back to their roots in the seventh round by grabbing a Western Hockey League standout. They selected Dustin Wolf, a stellar junior netminder who happens to stand a mere 5-feet-11 inches tall and weigh just 160 pounds.
Taking over from Carter Hart as the starter of the Everett Silvertips in 2018-19, Wolf was more than up to the challenge. He led the WHL in save percentage, while sitting among the circuit’s leaders in the other major categories like wins and goals against average.
The bad news is, likely due to his stature, Wolf was ranked 12th among North American goaltenders by the NHL’s Central Scouting Service. He came to Vancouver for the draft and waited. And waited. And waited. With many NHL clubs packing up their stuff, he was finally selected at 214th overall.
“Huge relief, obviously,” said Wolf of being selected fourth-from-last in the 2019 NHL Draft. “When you’re that close, maybe you’re not going to get picked. So to hear your name called is even more special. It’s something I’ll never forget.”
Wolf has only visited Calgary a handful of times, but he isn’t wholly unfamiliar with the Flames organization. His Everett teammate Jake Christiansen attended Flames rookie camp last fall and shared his positive experiences with Wolf.
If the pick works out, Wolf could be an amazing story. The Flames have selected goaltenders in recent years who fit the prototypical mold of what a goaltender should be in the modern game – big, wide dudes like Jon Gillies (six-foot-six, 223 pounds), Mason McDonald (six-foot-four, 201 pounds) and Tyler Parsons (six-foot-one, 190 pounds).
So far, none of those guys have worked out and the organization’s top goaltender is David Rittich, someone they found by accident while scouting somebody else in the Czech Extraliga. Drafting a sub-six-foot kid from California to be a starting goaltender isn’t a conventional move. But the conventional moves haven’t worked out so far, so going off the beaten path makes a ton of sense.
Three days prior to Wolf’s selection, an undrafted OHL free agent won the Norris Trophy as a member of the Flames. Sometimes unconventional moves work out. Regardless, the waiting is over for Wolf and he’s well-aware that now the work of inching his way towards a potential NHL job fully begins.