If Dustin Wolf continues on his upward trajectory, he would become the first South Valley-born player to make the National Hockey League.
Talk about heady stuff. Born in Gilroy, Wolf moved to Southern California when he was 9 or 10 to pursue his dream of making the NHL. The 19-year-old goaltender plays for the Everett (Wash.) Silvertips of the Western Hockey League and has racked up a bevy of top awards since the season ended, including the WHL and Canadian Hockey League Goaltender of the Year awards.
Even though things can change in an instant for a pro athlete’s trajectory—trades, injuries and life events all play a factor—an ideal scenario has Wolf playing one more season for Everett and then one year for the Stockton Heat before earning a promotion to Calgary (Stockton is Calgary’s American Hockey League farm team). The Flames selected Wolf in the seventh round of the 2019 Draft, pick No. 214 overall.
“It’s kind of crazy to think about it, but who would’ve thought at 9 or 10 I would move away to try to pursue the dream of playing professionally, but here we are now,” Wolf said. “There have been a lot of great people along the way who have helped me and hopefully a lot more going forward.”
The 6-foot, 165-pound Wolf grew up a San Jose Sharks fan and attended dozens of games every season, as his parents were season ticket holders. Going to Sharks games got Wolf interested in the sport—and to dream big. He started playing hockey at age 5, excelled from the get-go and soon found himself playing for competitive junior club teams like the Santa Clara Blackhawks before he and his family made the decision to move to Southern California so he could play for the Los Angeles Junior Kings, which is one of the top hockey clubs in the nation.
“I was persuaded to move down south by my now agent, and the rest you can say is history,” said Wolf, who attended the Charter School of Morgan Hill from kindergarten through the fourth grade before switching to online school from fifth grade through high school. “(With the Junior Kings) I was able to play in several top-end tournaments and get seen by scouts and coaches.”
Wolf still has plenty of family in the South Valley area, and he’s actually staying at his aunt and uncle’s house in Hollister indefinitely to train and work out in the area.
“There was not much going on in Washington, and I didn’t think there was a better time than now to come down and train and see some family,” said Wolf, whose grandparents live in Morgan Hill. “I booked a one-way flight, so it’s up to me whenever I want to go back. I’ll be out here just training in the meantime.”
Of that, there is no doubt. Wolf wakes up at 4:30am every day and prepares himself to train for the first of two daily workout sessions. He’s used the last three months—in which he had to find resourceful ways to work out—to stay fit and dial in on the nutrition side of things.
“I’ve been able to find quite a few ways to spend my time (during the pandemic) between investing in myself to eating all the right things (to properly fuel my body) to doing some research,” he said.
The Silvertips were having an outstanding season before play was suspended in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, having clinched a playoff berth and preparing for a deep playoff run. Once the season was cancelled a while later—Everett had five games left in the regular-season—the various minor leagues began announcing their annual award recipients.
On June 8, Wolf received the aforementioned CHL and WHL Goaltender of the Year awards. Prior to that, Wolf had earned the Dave Peterson Award given to the top American-born goaltender playing at the junior level worldwide.
“It’s definitely an honor to get recognized for these big awards,” Wolf said. “I’ve set out some big goals and to be able to accomplish them has really made all the hard work worth it. I’ve grown into having a strong bond at Everett with the support of all my teammates, staff and coaches. The work ethic is great, and it’s been a pretty awesome team to be a part of. I wouldn’t be getting these awards without them.”
Wolf led the WHL in goals against average (1.88), save percentage (.935) and shutouts (nine) while tying for the league-lead in wins (34). The Silvertips finished with a 46-13-3-1 record, the second best mark in the league.