Don’t underestimate what a quick spin with the Calgary Flames can do for goaltending prospect Dustin Wolf. Their American Hockey League star wasn’t expected to play a of the game against the Kraken in Seattle on Thursday night, but he was ready to soak in every minute.
“I try to treat every game like it’s just another hockey game. But at the same time, I’ve been sitting in my hotel room the last couple of days and just kind of thinking over how it’s incredible that I’m here right now,” the 20-year-old Wolf said via Zoom after Thursday’s morning skate. “Just trying to take every moment and enjoy it.”
He wasn’t the only one.
His family is practically in Seattle’s backyard. Wolf played his junior hockey in Everett and called his mom right after getting the news from Calgary Flames assistant GM Brad Pascal a couple of nights ago while getting some treatment in the training room in Stockton. Border complications around the new COVID rules made bringing regular backup goalie Dan Vladar risky.
“Pretty surreal,” Wolf said of his mom’s reaction and his own excitement.
“My house is only 45 minutes from here. Just to have some family in the building tonight is going to be exciting. It’s pretty special. To get my first call-up is pretty exciting.
“It’s a big opportunity for myself but also my family that’s put so much work to help me to this point. It’s very rewarding.”
Wolf shows incredible ability in spite of smaller stature
The seventh-round pick in the 2019 NHL draft has been rewarding the Flames franchise for believing in his ability in spite of his lack of size.
Starting Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom is 6-ft.-6. Wolf is listed generously at 6-ft.
But Wolf’s athleticism has made him a great story as an AHL rookie this year. He has yet to lose in regulation this season, going 14-0-2 with an astounding .940 save percentage and 1.84 goals-against average.
To say things are going well for him would be an understatement.
“The hockey side of it has been pretty enjoyable,” Wolf said with a smile. “We’ve got a great group down in Stockton. Everybody’s working for each other. It’s a big reason we’ve had so much success down there.”
He’s also learning how to be his best off the ice, taking care of himself and his body as a professional hockey player.
“There’s the hockey side of things but you’ve got a whole other side of life to take care of as well,” he said.
Uncertainty of COVID situation led to emergency recall
The recall didn’t surprise him given all that has been happening with the Flames and around the NHL the past few weeks. But he’s been maintaining his focus with the Heat.
“It’s a very interesting year yet again with all the COVID going on. You just never know what’s going to happen day by day. Almost the entire Flames team came down with COVID and went through it. I’m just happy everybody’s healthy and getting back on the ice,” Wolf said.
“I take everything day by day. My priority has been in Stockton, getting wins down there. Giving the team a chance to win each and every night. That’s my main focus.”
Wolf was excited to watch the Calgary Flames starter in action, too.
After a morning skate, a rookie lap and pre-game warmup, Markstrom would become the focus in the nets again.
“He comes to the rink every day and he wants to get better. Tremendous competitor out there. He’s such a big frame but he moves like he’s a smaller guy,” Wolf said of the big Swede when asked what he might take from watching the NHL starter. “Just taking his work ethic, trying to add little things like that (to my game).
“Very fortunate to be called up and be here today.”