BRYAN WILSON – 04.25.2023
As far as hockey seasons go, this has been a special one for Dustin Wolf.
Wolf put together an MVP campaign with the Wranglers during their inaugural season, setting career highs in wins, save percentage, goals-against average, and shutouts.
In just his second pro season, Wolf has established himself as a top netminder in the AHL and a top prospect in the Flames’ system. His compete level and in-game composure are elite – it’s as if he has ice in his veins.
Wolf always appears even keeled through the ups and downs and says he has really focused on simplifying his game and having more fun, which he explained wasn’t always the case.
“I just want to try and have fun every day,” Wolf explained. “I think that’s changed over the last few years. I used to be tense and locked up and so, I think it goes back to my first taste of pro, back to Garrett Sparks (Wolf’s teammate in Stockton 2020-21). The biggest message he had for me was to just go out and have fun and relax, and I’ve really taken that to heart.”
“I still take losses pretty hard but at the same time, you come to work the next day and you get see everybody, it’s fun and I love coming to the rink.”
WOLF’S 2022-23 ACCOLADES
- Les Cunningham Award – AHL’s Most Valuable Player
- Aldege ‘Baz’ Bastien Memorial Award – AHL Outstanding Goaltender
- Hap Holmes Award – to the goaltender(s) playing 25+ games on the team with the fewest goals-against.
- AHL First Team All-Star
Despite all the recognition this season, the 22-year-old netminder has remained grounded and humble. It’s a trait that is perhaps no better exemplified than by watching him work with his teammates during practice, or his candor when dealing with the media, or the way he interacts with his fans.
“I want to be as humble a person as I can,” expressed Wolf. “I love to interact with fans, they care about us and support us, and it means a lot. It’s the little things that mean a lot to them, too, so any time I get a chance to say hi and interact with fans I try to.”
Wolf (Gilroy, Calif.) made his NHL debut with the Flames on April 12, 2023, against his favourite childhood team – the San Jose Sharks and (of course) – did not disappoint, making 23-saves to pick up his first-career NHL win.
The whole experience was made even more special with Wolf’s former goaltending coach and mentor Thomas Speer – who now works with the Sharks – in attendance for the game.
“I had dinner with him the day before, he was one of the first to find out about me playing. He’s like family to me, so it’s cool to kind of go full circle. I grew up in the Bay area, watched the Sharks … he works for the Sharks now … so it’s obviously super special. I’ll keep that over his head, getting the win against him for the first time,” Wolf chuckled.
Wolf – along with goaltending partner, Oscar Dansk – have worked closely with Wranglers goaltending coach Mackenzie Skapski this season. Wolf credits his new goalie coach with a lot of fine tuning to his game.
“He’s been outstanding for me, and I’m sure Oscar can attest to that too,” Wolf said. “After we lost Speer last year to the Sharks – I had a close relationship with him, like I said, he’s basically like family to me – so I wasn’t sure how things were going to work. But as soon as Makenzie got the job, he gave me a call and wanted me to feel comfortable and to make sure that we were doing similar things as we were last season. I’ve been super happy about how he’s handled everything this season, with the video and how he’s finding little details to harp on me about.
“Without him I don’t think I’d get any recognition at all; he’s really helped shape my game this season.”