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WHIRLWIND SUMMER

It's been an off-season unlike any other for Flames prospect Dustin Wolf

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

Standing in against the fury of a late-on full two-minute 5-on-3 assault while clinging to a one-goal lead? Bah. Child's play.

The gut-mulching tension of playoff overtime? Fear not, ye of faint heart. Got this. Under control.

But those accursed putting yips? Now those … those are capable of crushing a man's soul.

"I feel like there's more pressure in golf than in hockey, honestly,'' reckons Flames' goaltending draft choice Dustin Wolf, a comparatively new conscript to the pitch-and-putt set.

"Say you're on the green of a par-4 in two with an eight-footer for birdie.

"Honestly, I think I'd rather be in Game 7, Stanley Cup final than lining up that birdie.

"Guess I'm just more used to stopping pucks than making putts."

Seems the Everett Silvertips' 41-win goaltender only took up the good-walk-spoiled game a summer ago, introduced to it by an uncle of teammate and Philadelphia Flyers' draft Wyatte Wylie.

"I know, I know, the only hockey player who didn't play golf, right?," he jokes self-deprecatingly from home base in Everett, Wash.

"But I started playing a ton.

"I was in the 115s, 120s, and now I'm shooting below a hundred pretty much every time. I actually shot an 87 a couple days ago.

"I have no idea how I did it.

"I'm three-over after seven holes and I'm like 'Holy … WHAT is going on?!' I choked the last two holes on the front nine or it would've been a lot better."

Wolf lets loose with a resigned, self-accusatory sigh floggers the world over can relate to.

"But, well, golf, right?"

Precisely.

Days on the links - along with some video gaming and "a little Netflix" - have augmented a hockey schedule during this, a summer unlike any other in his 18 years of existence.

For openers, there was the emotional tumult of an excruciating wait until late on Day Two of the NHL Draft at Rogers Arena in Vancouver before being selected in the seventh round, 214th overall by the Flames in late June. Followed by participation at his first Calgary development camp out at WinSport in early July.

 

 

And he's only recently returned from the World Junior Summer Showcase, staged at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Mich., where Wolf was one of four goaltending invitees for the Americans, along with 13th overall pick Spencer Knight (Florida), 135th selection Isaiah Saville (Vancouver) and 2020 draft-eligible Drew DeRidder.

The 44th World Junior Championship are slated for Ostravia and Trinec in the Czech Republic from Dec. 26th to Jan. 5.

"Overall, I thought things went pretty well,'' he says of the experience. "Obviously it's the middle of summer and I'm still trying to get back in the groove and whatnot.

"I just tried to put my best foot forward. I got the opportunity to play. First day there you could definitely tell there was a big difference in speed and the way guys released the puck.

"So a little bit of an adjustment period for that. Took a couple of days. But as things went on I thought it turned out well. 

"Hopefully I was able to showcase myself enough to be in position to be there come December.

"I wouldn't say I was nervous. But I hadn't played a game for five, six months. So you're not really sure what to expect, stepping into a high-pressure situation."

 

 

Tweet from @StevenEllisTHN: Massive save by #Flames prospect ��� and the biggest steal of the draft ��� Dustin Wolf. He has been great over the past few days. #WJSS pic.twitter.com/gwLzsqhu8Q 

 

While admitting he began paying keen attention to the tournament only five or six years ago, Wolf's interest was piqued by the 2017 tournament staged jointly by Toronto and Montreal.

"The one that probably sticks with me the most is when Tyler Parsons went for it and came home with the gold (for the U.S.),'' he reckons.

"Obviously, Tyler's with Calgary now. So it was pretty cool being able to hang out with him at development camp."

Undersized for the prototype goaltender of today, at 6-feet and 160 pounds, the product of Tustin, Calif., played absolutely lights-out in taking over from Carter Hart, graduated to the NHL Flyers, as the go-to puck-stopper at Angel of the Winds Arena:

Over 61 starts, those 41 wins, an insane .936 save percentage, Original Six-low 1.69 GAA and seven whitewashes.

"Our season ended fairly early, second round,'' confesses Wolf, with disappointment. "After that, the next few months, April, May, June, seemed like the longest months ever.

"Then the draft hits and everything just starts going crazy. We're going one place, then another.

"It's weird but during the season, when everything's in full swing, it's like: 'Get me out of the rink. I just want to go home.' Then during the summer I never want to be home.

"A lot of different things were going on this summer. It was great.

"But I'm looking forward to getting back to the rink, being around the guys again."

As August drifts into September, that means less and less time for trying to conquer those putting yips.

No matter. It's not as if Dustin Wolf could be enticed to swap a red Flaming C jersey for a green jacket, anyway.

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