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'PRETTY EMOTIONAL'

Roller-coaster day for Dustin Wolf, taken in the seventh round by the Flames in one of the draft's feel-good stories

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / calgaryflames.com

VANCOUVER - The wait was unbearable. 

Truly, minutes from heartbreak.

But all the tears, the hugs, the unforgettable moment of bliss he enjoyed, embracing those that made this all possible …

Well worth it.

Four picks from the end of the 2019 NHL Draft and Dustin Wolf - goaltender from the Everett Silvertips - finally heard his name called.

And by then, he literally hadn't moved in hours.

"Besides my agent coming up to me at one point and trying to talk me off a cliff a little bit," Wolf laughed. "I wasn't looking so hot the last 10 or 15 picks, and I just happened to sit back down when I heard my name called. 

"This was the whole reason I went to Everett. I knew I was going to have an opportunity to be in the spot I am today, and I definitely wouldn't be here without the coaches, the staff and all my great teammates.

"It's pretty special."

With Wolf and his family on one side of the building, and a good dozen or more Everett fans decked out in the team's trademark green-and-gold colours on the other, the moment captured the attention of everyone on hand, including all 31 teams on the draft 
floor. 

Many, in shock it took so long. 

"He was pretty emotional," said general manager Brad Treliving. "He came down and you could see he was tearing up. 

"I just said to him, 'Hey, there are guys that are drafted at 10:05 (a.m.) and there's guys that are drafted at 2:43 (p.m.). But you're all drafted. You're just like them. Enjoy the day. You've got a great story and we're excited and proud to have you.'

"He was pretty torn up. 

"That's a pretty good pick, I think."

 

Video: "There's no words to describe it"

 

Wolf - curiously ranked out of the top-10 among North American goaltenders - posted impressive numbers in the WHL with a 41-15-2 record last year, along with a sparkling .936 save percentage, a miniscule 1.69 goals-against average, and seven shutouts. 

Growing up in the area, and as a former San Jose Sharks season-ticket holder, Wolf models his game after Evgeni Nabokov and Jonathan Quick. 

"He's really smart," said head amateur scout Tod Button. "He reads the play well; he gets into position early and he's got really sound fundamentals. ... Our Western Guys love him.

"And the cherry on top was the crowd reaction. That was awesome."

Treliving has a theory why he was ranked so low (and, thus, why he was still available deep into the seventh round) but finds the rationale a bit silly. 

"If he's this much taller, he's going a lot earlier than what we had him," Treliving said. "He's not, let's call it, the 'modern' goalie of today's game, 6-4, 6-5, but he's very athletic and the results speak for themselves. In that spot, for sure, we feel that we got a really solid player and a really good kid."

Last year was Wolf's first as a full-time starter in the 'Dub. The Tustin, Calif., native backed up fellow Silvertip grad Carter Hart, who's coming off a sensational rookie campaign with the Philadelphia Flyers, the year prior, and learned plenty from his mentor about how to handle this process. 

Hart was one of the top goalies available in the 2016 draft after putting up similar numbers. 

But at a larger 6-foot-2, 181-lbs., his wait lasted only 17 picks into Day 2. 

 

Video: "It's been a pretty special road to this moment"

 

Regardless of where (and when) Wolf was eventually taken, Treliving's right: He made it. He's in. 

But he does, now, have a bit of a chip on his shoulder - rightfully wanting to prove the critics wrong after the season he had, ending with a runner-up finish in the WHL's Western Conference Goalie of the Year vote.

(Twenty-year-old Ian Scott of the league champion Prince Albert Raiders ultimately took home the prize, despite winning fewer games and posting a save percentage and GAA below that of Wolf.)

Wolf also excelled in the classroom, earning a 100% average for the current school year, and a 98.8% average throughout high school. In Grade 12, he achieved perfect scores in English 12, Statistics, Economics, and American Government.

All of it to officially stamp his name on what many other great young players have earned before him: The WHL's Scholastic Player of the Year Award.

Truly, elite in every sense.

"Absolutely," Wolf responded when asked if he's using his late pick as motivation. "Obviously you don't want to get picked as late as I did, but just getting picked at all is an incredible honour.

"I can't wait to get started in Calgary. It's going to be a fun ride."

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