Calgary Flames prospect Dustin Wolf named WHL goaltender of the year
It was no surprise that Dustin Wolf was saluted Tuesday as winner of the Del Wilson Memorial Trophy as the WHL’s top goaltender.
As a rookie backup, Dustin Wolf watched as his crease counterpart put his name in the Western Hockey League history books.
And then he set out to erase it.
Now the go-to guy for the Everett Silvertips and goaltender-of-the-future candidate for the Calgary Flames, Wolf needs six more shutouts to match the WHL’s all-time record of 26.
“In my first year, I watched (Carter) Hart tie the record and I kind of set out after that took place that I would do everything I could to try to beat it,” Wolf said. “I’m up to 20 now, so I need seven more to beat it. It’s kind of unfortunate, because I feel like I could have maybe had another two within our last five games at the end of the season, which definitely would have helped.
“It’s just another challenge to be had. Seven more … I think there’s a good chance.”
As long as the 2020-21 campaign isn’t delayed or shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wolf certainly has a good shot at it.
After all, he posted nine shutouts this past season, making it no surprise that he was saluted Tuesday as winner of the Del Wilson Memorial Trophy as the WHL’s top goaltender.
Wolf was also the Western Conference nominee a year ago but finished as runner-up.
“It’s definitely pretty awesome,” the 19-year-old netminder said shortly after Tuesday’s announcement. “After coming up a hair short last year, I wanted to come into this season and continue to prove myself and have another good season and put myself in a good spot to hopefully have an opportunity at it. Obviously, I thought I did a fairly decent job of that. So to be named the winner, it’s something pretty special.”
‘Fairly decent’ doesn’t even begin to describe his performance in the truncated season.
The Flames’ seventh-round selection in the 2019 NHL Draft, Wolf was a shoo-in for the Del Wilson Memorial Trophy after leading the Dub in every significant puck-stopping category.
He tied for tops in the league with 34 victories.
He set the standard with a 1.88 goals-against average and .935 save percentage.
And he pitched those nine shutouts. Nobody else managed more than five.
The stats that his detractors continue to focus on are his measurements — he’s an undersized prospect at 6-foot and 165 lb. — but Wolf is certainly building an impressive resume in the junior ranks. As Flames general manager Brad Treliving put it last month, “he’s been nothing short of dominant at that level.”
That doesn’t guarantee success in The Show, but there are a lot of familiar names engraved on the Del Wilson Memorial Trophy.
Wolf’s former teammate Hart, now an emerging star for the Philadelphia Flyers, claimed the award three times during his stint in Everett.
Other past recipients of the WHL’s goalie of the year nod include Carey Price, Martin Jones and Darcy Kuemper. Going back further, Flames legend Mike Vernon won twice while starring for the Calgary Wranglers.
“There are quite a few names on there that are playing in the NHL currently,” Wolf said. “So it’s definitely awesome to have your name amongst those tremendous ’tenders.”
Wolf, who relies on his athleticism and sound positioning to make up for his small stature, hopes to eventually follow their footsteps to the highest level.
First things first, though. He’s aiming to put his name solely atop the list of the WHL’s career shutout leaders.
Hart and Tyson Sexsmith, ex of the Vancouver Giants, wrapped their respective junior stints with 26 goose eggs.
Wolf, who has blanked 20 opponents in his three seasons in the league, figures he can surpass that total.
It’s not just about the pursuit of history. It’s about the constant pursuit of perfection.
“A shutout is always awesome,” Wolf said. “I’ve been able to do it numerous amount of times over the last couple of years, and I kind of like to think of it as just a routine now. I’ve done it so often and I expect myself to be able to potentially do it each and every game. It’s a fun thing to strive for, for sure.
“Every goalie wants to put up a zero on the board every night. Obviously that doesn’t happen each and every game. But when it does happen, it’s pretty satisfying to say the least.”
Wolf is now a finalist for the Canadian Hockey League’s Goaltender of the Year Award.
WHL CAREER SHUTOUT LEADERS
Tyson Sexsmith, 26 (179 GP)
Carter Hart, 26 (190 GP)
Bryan Bridges, 21 (213 GP)
Leland Irving, 21 (195 GP)
Dustin Wolf, 20 (127 GP)
Dustin Slade, 20 (132 GP)
Justin Pogge, 20 (151 GP)
Kelly Guard, 19 (115 GP)
Darcy Kuemper, 19 (178 GP)