Flames Will Soon See If Wolf Is Ready For NHL Role
Dustin Wolf played his last game of the season for the Calgary Wranglers on Friday. Some wonder if it was a grand finale before the start of his NHL career with the Calgary Flames.
After all, Wolf has done everything but win a Calder Cup in two American Hockey League seasons with the Flames affiliate, which moved from Stockton to Calgary this season.
Wolf is the AHL’s two-time defending goaltender of the year was named league MVP this season. Despite falling short of a championship, he has nothing left to prove in the minors.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The 22-year-old still has to prove he belongs in the NHL.
He had a brief taste of the big league winning the Calgary Flames finale against the San Jose Sharks last month, but the Flames should be leery of moving out either Jacob Markstrom or Dan Vladar this season and handing an NHL job to Wolf without an extended audition.
People (myself included) were ready to anoint Vladar the team’s starter after an impressive stretch this season, but the promising young goaltender’s game began to crumble as his starts compounded.
A three-headed monster isn’t ideal but, if Wolf’s training camp demands that he stick around, the team could work him in early with a short leash then bring him up at times throughout the year to get acclimated to the elevated competition.
Although this past season was a disaster in the crease with Markstrom’s performance plummeting a year after he finished second in the Vezina voting, there is no need to panic. Markstrom played better after becoming a father, and Vladar took a big leap in his development. Fired head coach Darryl Sutter never seemed to get the cadence right in trying to handle Markstrom’s struggles.
Wolf looks like the real deal. He’s as agile a prospect as we’ve seen, is competitive and cool-headed. He probably has a bright NHL future ahead of him.
But that doesn’t mean he’s done in the AHL just yet.