Dylan Wells’ ‘whirlwind’ of a journey to signing NHL contract with Blackhawks
The Blackhawks have been hit with the injury bug so far this season, but no position in the organization has had its depth tested more than the goaltending.
In the fourth game of the season, Petr Mrazek suffered a groin injury that has knocked him out of the lineup since. He recently returned to the ice but is still about a week away from being game-ready, and the team is taking a cautious approach with the ramp-up process because of his history.
On Tuesday, Alex Stalock left the game minutes into the first period because of a violent collision with New York Islanders forward Casey Cizikas and was later placed in concussion protocol. It came three nights after an injury to Jaxson Stauber, who had been the starter for the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs with Arvid Soderblom in the NHL for the time being.
With only one healthy goaltender under an NHL contract, the Blackhawks were forced to sign Dylan Wells on Wednesday to a one-year, two-way deal at a $750,000 cap hit to bridge the gap as Soderblom’s backup for the next two games. He had previously been on an AHL contract.
Wells, 24, said he heard from Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson almost immediately after the Stalock injury, and the next thing you know he’s at practice the next morning taking pucks from Patrick Kane and the Blackhawks.
“I was watching with a few of the guys back in Rockford yesterday and obviously Stalock went down, then things just kind of quickly started unfolding,” Wells said. “It’s been a whirlwind of, not even 24 hours I guess, but I’m happy to be here.”
This is probably not how Wells would have wanted to earn his first NHL contract that followed his entry-level deal, especially since he’s become good friends with Stalock. The two of them were on Edmonton’s taxi squad together during the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season, so they had developed a bond.
Wells said he talked to Stalock on Wednesday morning in the Blackhawks’ locker room and Stalock, being the class act that he is, congratulated him on the opportunity and welcomed him to the NHL club.
“Obviously you never want to see a guy get hurt,” Wells said. “I know it’s a good opportunity for me but it sucks to see Al go down. He’s a great guy.”
All that being said, I don’t think Wells stopped smiling during his entire four-minute interview with the media. You could see how much this opportunity means to him, even if he might not get a chance to play in a game.
“It’s really cool,” Wells said. “My parents were super excited when I called them. That’s been my goal to get back to an NHL deal after my entry-level with Edmonton. I got a little taste of it the taxi squad year, spending the year up with the Oilers and I got to back up a game in Montreal, so I’ve had a little taste of it which helps settle in here a little more just being around the same kind of atmosphere.
“But I’m just super excited and I know my family is all excited for me too. It’s a good opportunity for me.”
The plan this season was for Soderblom to be the starter for Rockford and Stauber to be the backup, which forced Wells to start the campaign with the ECHL’s Indy Fuel. So in a matter of weeks, Wells went from the starter for the Fuel, the backup then starter for Rockford and now the backup for the Blackhawks.
What a crazy journey.
“It’s really fun,” Wells said. “It’s a really special opportunity and I’m really happy to be here, soaking it in, but at the same time I’m just trying to go out and do my job and just having fun with it.”