While the Flames tried drafting Irving in the first round, McDonald and Parsons in the second round and Gillies in the third round without bearing fruit, they might have found their next long-term starter in many years in the seventh round.
Looking back at the Flames starter’s over the past eight years is a long list of one-hit (not so) wonders. David Rittich, Mike Smith, Brian Elliott, Karri Ramo, and Jonas Hiller have all had the most starts in a season for the Flames, but none of them have had much success.
They tried many times to pick a goalie in the first half of the draft to no avail, but Dustin Wolf looks like the real deal. He was selected in the 7th round of the 2019 NHL Draft after an excellent season with the Everett Silvertips.
The Tustin, California native was sensational in 2018-19 for the Silvertips, posting a 1.69 GAA and a .936 SV% in 61 games. He was only 17 years old that season. He turned 18 in April of 2019, was drafted two months later and then turned in another exceptional season in the WHL. He played 46 games before the season was interrupted, and had a 1.88 GAA with a .935 SV%.
He is “undersized” for a goaltender at 6’0″ and 161 pounds which is a big part of the reason he was available in the 7th round of the draft. But, even as a 16 year old he was dominant in the WHL. He only played 20 games that season, but posted a 2.25 GAA to go with a .928 SV% that season.
Why did he play only 20 games? Carter Hart was the team’s starter and he had a 1.60 GAA and a .947 SV% on the season.
Wolf is still just 19 years old so he has one more year of Junior eligibility left. He was the backup to Spencer Knight at last year’s World Juniors and is likely to play that same role again this year for the Americans. It should be another terrific season for Wolf, but the 2021-22 season will be the pivotal one in his development.
That jump from Junior to pro can be difficult for top prospects, especially goaltenders. We saw how Parsons and Gillies failed to bring their great numbers from the OHL and college to the AHL.
They didn’t have the same prolonged success that Wolf already has at the Junior level. A fourth year of dominating play, after winning the CHL’s Top Goaltender Award this season, will have Wolf fully prepared for the next level.
After that? Can he be the goaltender of the future for the Calgary Flames? They have had a difficult time finding a starter who is a long term solution since Kiprusoff retired. Wolf waited a long time before his name was called at the NHL Draft in 2019.
If he continues on the path he’s been on his whole career, he won’t be waiting much longer before he is the team’s number one option and he has the poise and talent to keep that job for a very long time.