We’ve already profiled a couple of goaltenders for this year’s draft and we’re going to continue with that today. We are going to take a closer look at Everett Silvertips goaltender Dustin Wolf who has put together a very impressive first season as a starter in the Western Hockey League. He finished second in WHL Goaltender of the Year voting yet led the league in numerous categories. Wolf showcased his abilities to not only play in a large amount of games but do so at a consistently high level which makes him an intriguing prospect for the draft. Let’s get to know more about Wolf in this post.
Who is Dustin Wolf?
According to his WHL page, Dustin Wolf is a 5’11, 160 lbs. goaltender from Tustin, California that was born on April 16, 2001 and catches with his left hand. His EliteProspects page list him at 6’0 and 161 lbs. so he’s certainly a goaltender that is yet to fill out his frame. Wolf is coming off of his second season in the WHL and his first as a full-time starter. Let’s take a look at what he did prior to the WHL thanks to EliteProspects.
Wolf played his bantam and minor midget hockey from 2014-17 with the Los Angeles Junior Kings. Stats are limited but we can see that he put up a .949 SV% in 3 games in 2014-15 in the T1EMBHL for the Bantam Minor team. In 2015-16 he put up a .905 SV% in 7 regular season games and a .920 SV% in 3 playoff games for the Bantam AAA team in the T1EBHL. The same season he made his U16 debut with a .889 SV% across 2 games in the T1EHL U16. In 2016-17 he would have success at the U16 level with a .941 SV% in 18 regular season games and a .936 SV% in 3 playoff games. The Everett Silvertips of the WHL would decided to take a chance on him with a 5th round pick in the WHL Bantam Draft and select him at 104th overall.
The 2017-18 season would mark his first as a member of the Silvertips. That season he would back up Carter Hart in Everett as the team would make a run to the WHL Finals where they would lose to Swift Current. Wolf was solid in his back up role, going 13-6-0-0 with a 2.25 GAA and .928 SV% with 4 shutouts in 20 regular season games. Wolf would only see 9 minutes of playoff action during Everett’s deep run but stopped all 4 shots he faced.
Back in September, Brandon Rivers of DubNetwork.ca had this interview with Wolf and his LA Junior Kings goaltending coach James Jensen. They both had some quotes that allow us to get into his mindset on and off the ice, as well as learn more about his playing style which he models after another small goaltender by today’s standards, Jonathan Quick. Regarding playing behind Cater Hart:
“Hart just showed me how to do the right things every single day. I could not have asked for a better year than last year. To back him up and see how he is on the ice and off. I’ve got nothing but good things to say about him and I learned so much for him.” Wolf said.
A trait that Hart was known for throughout his tenure in Everett was his calmness between the the pipes and that is also something that comes naturally to Wolf.
“My biggest strength is staying calm in the net. I just try to stick to my routine every day and come to the rink, putting my best foot forward.”
Regarding who Wolf models his game after:
“I know for a fact that if you were to ask him with him growing up and playing in Southern California and being in the LA Jr. Kings program, and with their success winning the two cups I know that he really likes Jonathan Quick. He even wears his number 32. If you were to ask him who he thinks he plays like it’s going to be Jonathan Quick. The older he gets though the more he comes into his own and I think the real answer is he plays like Dustin Wolf,” Jensen said.
With Carter Hart turning pro for the 2018-19 season, Wolf was thrust into the starter’s role for the Silvertips. Wolf absolutely thrived with the added responsibility, going 41-15-2-2 with a 1.69 GAA and .936 SV% along with 7 shutouts in 61 regular season games. He would lead the league in games played (tied with Beck Warm of the Tri-City Americans), minutes played, wins, GAA, and SV% and finish second in shutouts, just one behind Ian Scott of the Prince Albert Raiders. In 10 playoff games he would go 5-4-1 with a 2.02 GAA and .914 SV% with 1 shutout as Everett lost to the Spokane Chiefs in the second round. Wolf would be named to the WHL West First All-Star Team and also earn the Daryl K. Seaman Trophy for WHL Scholastic Player of the Year. I should also mention that Wolf represented the USA U18 team at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup with a 2.65 GAA and .909 SV% in 3 games.
Where is Dustin Wolf Ranked?
Final rankings for most outlets are yet to come out so here are some of the most recent ones available:
- NHL Central Scouting Services: North American Goaltenders - 17 (Midterm), North American Goaltenders - 12 (Final)
- Steve Kournianos - The Draft Analyst: 108 (Preseason 400, August 2018), 113 (Midseason 400, December 2018), 13 North American Goaltenders (Top 500, April 2019)
- Future Considerations: 95 (Winter Ranking), 81 (Spring Ranking)
In general, we can see that Wolf has been a steady riser over the course of his draft year. NHL Central Scouting still doesn’t rate him as high as some of the other North American goaltenders despite the success he has had. I can’t help but wonder if his size (at about 6 feet tall depending on where you look) is playing a part in that. Then again, The Draft Analyst has numerous other goaltenders ahead of Wolf so perhaps there is some concern that playing on a good team has inflated his numbers a bit. It was interesting to see him go from being outside the Top 100 for Future Considerations in the preseason and fall rankings to being 95th and 81st in their winter and spring rankings respectively. It seems that Wolf could go anywhere from a 3rd to 7th round pick depending on who you ask.
What Others Say About Dustin Wolf
Back in September, Ben Kerr of Last Word on Hockey had this to say about Wolf:
Wolf has a strong technique. He comes out of the net and challenges shooters. His quick reflexes and strong legs take away the bottom of the net. Wolf also tracks the puck well and moves side to side quickly. A quick glove hand takes away the top of the net.
Wolf is also strong handling the puck. He can act as a third defenceman, starting the breakout and transition for the team. He even makes the long pass if the opposing team gets caught on a line change.
We already know that Wolf may lack the size of some of the other goaltending prospects but it seems like he knows how to play with what he’s got. I’m encouraged to read that he knows how to use angles to aggressively challenge shooters and utilizes a fast glove hand to cover the top of the net. I really like reading that he is a strong puck handler and can help his team transition out of their end which is really important in today’s game.
Back in September, Andy Eide, a Seattle Thunderbirds/WHL beat reporter for 710 ESPN Seattle had this article with plenty of quotes from Wolf and a NHL scout. Here’s what the scout had to say about Wolf’s game:
“He’s extremely quick with a high hockey IQ,” one NHL scout says. “He reads plays and has the ability to make the hard save look easy. His reflexes and rebound control are very good for a goalie his age. Everett is spoiled going from Hart to Wolf without much drop off.”
Once again it seems like his size doesn’t hold him back as he is able to anticipate the play and react accordingly. While he may have already been on a good team when he took the starting job this past season, it really seems that he’s been equally a part of Everett’s success.
Finally, Future Considerations’ scout Keith Fries had this to say about Wolf after the Hlinka Gretzky Cup:
Wolf showed plenty of poise. Made some excellent saves and his compete level rose with every stop. Size may not fit the mold of a modern day NHL netminder, IQ, swagger, and athleticism more than make up for it. Did a great job of remaining calm, cool, and collected. Really is a cool customer, and doesn’t get rattled, easily. A study in head trajectory, with excellent vision on the puck at all times. One of the more underrated parts of his game is his paddle, and how active he is with it. Because his skating is so sound, he’s not afraid to play the puck behind his net or clear the puck on a penalty kill. Quick pipe-to-pipe skater.
This backs up what a lot of the other reports have mentioned. Wolf seems to think the game at a high level, have the athletic ability to make stops, is comfortable playing the puck, and is very calm under pressure.
A Little Video
The first video comes to us from the WHL on YouTube. This highlight packages sees Wolf remain calm under pressure, challenge shooters at the top of his crease, and showcase good athletic and lateral ability to go post to post. While you can tell just by looking at him that he’s undersized, it doesn’t seem to hinder him, at least at the major junior level.
The next video is one of his assists from this past season where he makes a good outlet pass to a teammate.
An Opinion of Sorts
We all know that Ray Shero has stockpiled goaltending prospects since coming to New Jersey. Will he select another one in this draft? We’ll have to wait and see but if he does then I think Dustin Wolf can be an interesting option. First, Wolf seems set to go anywhere from the mid to late rounds of the draft depending on the different draft boards. I wouldn’t be shocked his ranking is all over the place among the 31 NHL teams. Regardless, his talent level could end up being much higher than that of a mid to late pick. Secondly, Wolf may be undersized but seems to understand how to not let that affect his game. He moves well, cuts down angles well, stays calm and positive. The fact he led the WHL in minutes last season, his first as a stater, suggests to me that his athletic conditioning is another strong aspect of his game. Wolf could be a solid value pick for a team that decides to focus on skaters early on in the draft and then try to grab a goaltender from the second tier available after the top goaltenders are off the board.
I have two concerns about Wolf as a prospect. First, we know he can make stops at the major junior level despite being undersized but how will he manage that at the professional level? Secondly, he has always played on a strong team in the WHL, which makes one think how much of his success is due to the team in front of him? I feel like he’s been a huge part of their success but I wouldn’t be shocked to see other’s have a differing viewpoint. Wolf is certainly one of the harder goaltending prospects to figure out due to his great numbers, strong game, lack of size, and low rankings. As always, I do enjoy taking a look at a few metrics to analyze goaltenders from afar.
I like to look at numbers like Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA), Goals Allowed Percentage Minus (GA%-), Quality Start Percentage (QS%), and Really Bad Start Percentage (RBS%). Of course numbers aren’t everything but I think it can help us see how these goaltenders compare to their peers. A quick reminder about these stats:
- GSAA = Saves-(League Average SV%*Shots Against); Developed by Hockey Reference
- GA%- = 100*((1-player save %)/(1-league average save %)); Developed by Hockey Reference
- Quality Start = “In order to record a Quality Start, the starting goalie must stop at least a league average number of shots or play at least as well as a replacement-level goalie while allowing two goals or fewer.”; Developed by Robert Vollman
- Really Bad Start = “The Really Bad Start, where a goalie fails to stop even 85% of the shots.”; Developed by Robert Vollman
After gathering the WHL data, I found that the average SV% last season was .903 which is to be expected in a league with such high offensive talent. Among all WHL goaltenders Wolf ranked 1st in GSAA (52.71), 1st in GSAA/60 (0.87), and 1st in GA%- (66). Ian Scott who won WHL Goaltender of the Year was second in these categories with a 38.26 GSAA, 0.79 GSAA/60, and 70 GA%-. He put in a fine season but Wolf’s body of work was cleary superior in regards to these specific metrics. A few weeks ago I profiled Mads Sogaard who was the top WHL goaltender eligible for the draft according to Central Scouting. While Wolf was ranked as the 12th best North America goaltender and Sogaard the 2nd, Wolf’s numbers really stand out over Sogaard, albeit in 24 more games played. Sogaard had a 19.89 GSAA, 0.60 GSAA/60, and 81 GA%-. Wolf had a 76.27 Quality Start% to Sogaard’s 69.70. Wolf also had just a 6.78 Really Bad Start% to Sogaard’s 12.12%. It does make you wonder how much of a difference does size and quality of team play into the rankings. With all that said, I think you can do a lot worse than using a mid to late round pick on a goaltender like Dustin Wolf. I wouldn’t mind the Devils selecting him at all after they’ve focused on adding some more talented skaters to the prospect pool.
What are your thoughts on Dustin Wolf as a prospect? Would you want the Devils to draft him? Do you prefer other draft eligible goaltenders to him? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!