Dustin Wolf’s plentiful NHL opportunities in 2023-24 provide a glimpse into the future

Photo credit:Terence Leung/Calgary Wranglers
Paige Siewert
25 days ago
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It has been a big year for Dustin Wolf and next year may be even bigger. With news of Jacob Markstrom being traded to the New Jersey Devils on June 19, Wolf’s role in the organization just got an immediate boost. Are we on the edge of seeing the start of the Dustin Wolf era between the pipes for the Flames? His performance and opportunities seem to be pointing in that direction.

The past 

Dustin Wolf was born in Gilroy, California and played junior hockey in his home state for the Los Angeles Jr. Kings AAA team for three seasons between 2015-2017. He was then picked up by the Everett Silvertips in the 2017-18 season and played all four years with the team even amidst Covid-19 setbacks. 
He was a late draft pick by the Flames in the 2019 NHL Draft being picked in the seventh round, 214th overall. Even with his professional career still in the early years, Wolf has already proven he was grossly overlooked in this draft and was a late-round gem just waiting to be uncovered. 
Between time with the Silvertips, Wolf also played two years at the World Juniors and earned a gold medal with Team USA in 2020-21. In that same season, he was also able to make his professional debut with the Stockton Heat before his WHL season started. He played three games and while his first outing was not something to write home about, he was stunning in his next two games. In three games with the Heat at the beginning of that season, Wolf had a 2-1-0 record, a 3.24 GAA and a .895 save percentage.
After this little preview, Wolf finished up his last season with the Silvertips and played in 22 games in a modified season. His records through all of his years in Everett were stunning. In his first year, it was 13-6-0 then rose to 41-15-4 in 2018-19, then 34-10-2 in 2019-20. In his last season, he was almost perfect in his final season with an 18-3-0 record. 
Even before playing a full professional season with the Flames, Wolf had already racked up a long list of awards and accolades in his respective leagues for exceptional goaltending in the WHL and AHL. In 2022-23, he was also awarded the Les Cunningham Award for the AHL’s Most Valuable Player. An award that very rarely goes to a netminder.

The present 

By the numbers, 2023-24 was not Dustin Wolf’s best season to date but his rookie year was pretty hard to beat. However, this season consisted of many more opportunities at the NHL level. In the AHL, he ended up playing 36 games and finished up with a 20-12-3 record. His GAA finished up at 2.45, which was 11th in the league and his save percentage was .922, which was fourth in the league. He finished up with four shutouts in the regular season. 
For the Flames, Wolf played in 17 games and finished the year with a 7-7-1-0 record in the NHL. His GAA was 3.16 and his save percentage was .893. He bounced back and forth between leagues multiple times due to injuries to Jacob Markstrom and a season-ending injury to Dan Vladar at the end of the season. 
When Dustin Wolf talked about the transition when jumping between leagues during Wranglers’ exit interviews he said:
“You try to say that they do blend but it’s tough. I know when I go up, it would take a couple of days to adjust and likewise coming back down as well. As the year went on and the more times I went up and down, I started to figure out what I needed to do to not have a bump as soon as I came back.” 
He continued by saying:
“It’s hard, you’re around a group for a period of time then next thing you know, you’re around a different group for a period of time and travel is different. Everything is different.”
His longest stretch of games was between March 12th to April 18th and his last NHL game of the regular season was nine seconds from his first NHL shutout. Something to look out for in the future. In Wolf’s place, that left Connor Murphy and Oscar Dansk to keep the Wranglers in a competitive spot in the meantime.
When he reflected on finishing up the Flames’ regular season he said,
The last month and a half was very critical for myself in terms of, one to have the belief that I do deserve to play there and show management and people that I should be there.”
Wolf also alluded to that experience providing even more confidence when he joined the Wranglers for playoffs. In playoffs, Dustin Wolf put the team in their best position to win and stole a game or two between the pipes along the way. 
His post-season record finished at 3-3 with a shutout in game one against the Tucson Roadrunners. His post-season numbers were similar to the regular season with a .924 save percentage and a 2.84 GAA.

The future

Dustin Wolf wrapped up his entry-level contract this year and is a no-brainer to re-sign this summer. He is currently a restricted free agent and should be one of the first orders of business for Craig Conroy. Since losing Markstrom, only Dan Vladar is on an active contract NHL that expires in 2025-26. Waltteri Ignatjew was signed in mid-March but is projected to be an AHL goaltender next season. 
Wolf is not an asset this organization is going to want to lose any time soon so if both parties agree, a multi-year contract extension would be the anticipated outcome of this summer. He said:
“It’s been a long year and just looking forward to chilling out, hanging with some friends and playing some golf. Obviously, it’d be nice to still be playing right now. But just with the circumstances just gotta take advantage of what you’ve got.”
Dustin Wolf will face the largest challenge of his career in 2024-25 and that is the potential to be an everyday NHL starter. He has pretty well achieved everything he could to get to this point and deserves a long look in the show.

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