Way, way back in 2018, a young netminder from California took over as the starter for the Everett Silvertips. The 17-year-old goalie had to fill the shoes of Carter Hart, one of the top goaltenders in recent Western Hockey League history.
The challenge? Accepted. The goaltender? Dustin Wolf. And those shoes? Filled to the brim, as Wolf has arguably surpassed his predecessor.
He’s tied for fourth on our 2020 prospect ranking.
How did we get here?
From the Anaheim suburb of Tustin, California, Wolf grew up playing hockey in the greater Los Angeles area and became a prospect of some renown. He migrated north as a 16-year-old in 2017 to back up Carter Hart for the Silvertips. He performed quite well in 20 games and inherited the starting gig when Hart graduated to the pros.
In 2018-19, Wolf played 61 games for the ‘Tips. It’s hard to imagine how he could’ve done much better than he did, on or off the ice. He was the WHL and CHL’s Scholastic Player of the Year. He led the WHL in save percentage and goals against average and was named a first team conference all-star. He was ranked 12th among North American goaltenders by Central Scouting for the 2019 NHL Draft and was the 14th North American goalie selected, 214th overall, fourth-from-last in the draft.
Wolf’s relatively low draft ranking and where he was selected was a product of his size: at a shade over six feet tall, he’s considered a small for a goalie. (Flames general manager Brad Treliving has often joked that he doesn’t care what the tape measure says, but Wolf’s good at stopping the puck.)
In his post-draft season, 2019-20, Wolf somehow improved on a stellar prior season. He was among the major junior leaders in basically every goaltending category – leading the Dub again in save percentage and goals against average – and was named the top goaltender by the WHL, CHL and USA Hockey. He also represented Team USA at the World Juniors, serving as backup to Spencer Knight.
Stats, numbers, and everything therein
So, uh, Wolf’s pretty good.
He had 34 wins in 2019-20, tied with Portland’s Joel Hofer for the WHL lead. Only Chicutimi’s Alexis Shank had more (36).
He had nine shutouts in 2019-20, leading the WHL. Nobody in the OHL or QMJHL had as many.
He had a 0.935 save percentage in 2019-20, leading the WHL. Nobody in the OHL or QMJHL could match that.
He had a 1.88 goals against average in 2019-20, leading the WHL. Nobody in the OHL or QMJHL had a GAA below 2.00.
Until he graduates or is surpassed, Wolf’s the best goaltender in Canadian major junior hockey.
He’s also chasing some history when the WHL returns in the New Year. He has 20 career shutouts, six shy of the record of 26 shared by Hart and Tyson Sexsmith. He also has a 1.85 career GAA, ahead of every Kelly Guard (1.70) all-time. The GAA record may be a bridge too far, but he’ll have his focus on the shutout record.
Those in the know
Our pal Joel Henderson of Dobber Prospects shared his thoughts on Wolf’s game:
I’d just say he sits lower in the butterfly which helps him move laterally but it does leave a little bit more of the top of the net exposed and as you move into pro hockey, players can take advantage of that a little more. Same things Parsons had to adjust to. His positioning and athleticism is strong from what I can see.
On the horizon
When the WHL kicks off for 2020-21, Wolf will be the undisputed starter for Everett. Barring anything unforeseen, it’ll be his last season in the Dub – his entry level deal starts running in 2021-22 and the Flames likely have him pencilled in for a gig in Stockton as he’ll hopefully moves his way towards the big club.
How excited should fans be about Wolf at this point? Well, he’s better than Hart was (statistically) at the same age. He’s played fewer games than Hart had (127 vs. 149), but he’s got more shutouts (20 vs. 19), wins (88 vs. 85), a lower GAA (1.85 vs. 2.13) and a higher save percentage (0.934 vs. 0.921). Junior success is no guarantee of pro success, but it’s a nice start – and Wolf has had a lot of junior success. Cautious optimism is probably the best advice for fans at this point.
FlamesNation Top 20 Prospects 2020