Like a college basketball team that had secured an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament, Dustin Wolf flipped on the NHL Network in the 1 p.m. hour Monday to see his name on the screen and learn who was joining him on the United States roster for the 2020 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships.
The Everett Silvertips star goaltender was aware of his inclusion on the team prior to the unveiling, but USA Hockey made it official Monday by announcing its 28-man preliminary roster for the championships, which are scheduled for Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in the Czech Republic.
Wolf said it was “definitely awesome” to be selected for a tournament as highly regarded as world juniors.
“Obviously it’s special,” he said. “Obviously there is still a lot of work to put in to play a couple of games or be in the backup role, whatever it may be. But it’s definitely a testament to not only myself, but the group here in Everett to help me get to this point. It’s going to be a fun trip.”
Even without inside knowledge, Wolf’s inclusion on the roster was not a huge surprise. He started three of five games for Team USA at the 2018 under-18 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, posting a .909 save percentage as Team USA finished fourth, and survived cuts at the 2019 World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Michigan.
A year after leading the Western Hockey League in goals-against average (1.69), save percentage (.936) and wins (41), Wolf once again leads the league with a .943 save percentage and trails only Portland’s Joel Hofer with a 1.86 goals-against average and 16 wins.
Unless Wolf, a seventh-round pick by the Calgary Flames in the 2019 NHL Draft, suffers a setback, he’s nearly a lock to make the final roster. World junior teams almost always carry three goalies to international competitions and just three were named to the preliminary roster.
Wolf is the only player from the WHL and one of just five Canadian Hockey League players on the roster.
Of the three goaltenders invited, the heavy favorite to receive the lion share of the starts in net is Spencer Knight, a first-round pick (No. 13 overall by the Florida Panthers) in the 2019 NHL draft. Knight, who plays for Boston College, made the team as a 17-year-old last year.
“I really like our goaltending,” head coach Scott Sandelin said in an interview with NHL Network.
Wolf would be just the second Silvertip to make Team USA’s world junior roster, joining forward Peter Mueller (2006, 2007).
So, what does this all mean for Everett?
Wolf will be available for both of Everett’s games this weekend, which include a road tilt with the Portland Winterhawks, who are tied with the Silvertips atop the U.S. Division with 43 points, on Friday, and Teddy Bear Toss night at Angel of the Winds Arena against Vancouver on Saturday.
Wolf flies to Plymouth, Michigan, for selection camp on Sunday morning. After that, he will be unavailable for eight games.
In Wolf’s absence, the Silvertips will rely on a goalie tandem of Keegan Karki and Braden Holt.
Karki, 19, has appeared in eight games for the Silvertips and owns a 2.60 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage.
Holt, a 16-year-old rookie from Bozeman, Montana, has not played this season. He’s been kept on the roster instead of being sent down to the midget level because of the strong possibility of Wolf being gone for world juniors.
Josh Horton covers the Silvertips for the Herald. Follow him on Twitter, @JoshHortonEDH