Toronto's 3rd round pick in 2004 is coming into his own. Justin Pogge started the season with the Toronto Marlies splitting goaltending duties with former New Jersey Devil, Scott Clemmensen. Both played fairly well and one did not look superior over another. But a Vesa Toskala injury to the Toronto Maple Leafs might just be what Justin Pogge needed. With Clemmensen getting the call to the NHL, Pogge was left with the starting duties for the Marlies. So far, he has 2 shutouts in as many as 5 games and his season statistics have risen to an impressive .911 SV%, a 2.18 GAA and a 13-2-4 record to go along with his 2 shutouts.
Justin Pogge, standing at 6'3 and weighing in at 205 pounds, is a goaltender who brings a quick glove, good speed and good puck handling specifically to the table. He also knows how to use his big frame to better challenge the shooters, an aspect very important to compete in the goaltenders league that is the NHL. Some of his flaws that I've noticed when he first started with the Marlies continue to be apart of his game, but already is getting progressively better this season. Those flaws include rebound control and consistency. Two aspects that need fine tuning in order to succeed in the NHL. However, his work ethic suggests that he's got the heart to overcome it and reach the level all young goaltenders dream of. According to Pogge, he is ready to experience what the NHL is like "Definitely, I would like to get the chance to see what (the NHL) is like," said a determined Justin Pogge. ''Even if I didn't play, it would be a chance to experience things at that level. That's what I worked all summer for. If I don't get the opportunity, it would be disappointing. I'd just have to work hard all summer again to reach that goal."
Pogge has already had success in the early going of his career. In 2006, he won ''CHL Goaltender of the Year'', ''Del Wilson Trophy - Top goaltender in the WHL'', ''Four Broncos Memorial Trophy - Player of the year in WHL'', '' World Junior Hockey Championship Team Canada MVP'' and a gold medal to go along with it. When the Leafs had both Tukka Rask and Justin Pogge, John Ferguson Jr. opted to keep Pogge and trade Rask for a quick fix in net, which has now proved to be a grave mistake. However, the Tukka Rask trade has given Pogge full confidence to be the future starter of the Leafs, and with Toskala holding the reins right now, there is no rush for the young goaltender. He can hone his skills and develop in the AHL as he should. But will we see Pogge as early as next season perhaps?
Throughout the pre-season, Justin Pogge was the most impressive goaltender for the Leafs, amongst a struggling group mind you, and this may speak volumes of what may happen in the very near future. I think it's possible that we may see Pogge between the pipes as early as next season. If Andrew Raycroft and Scott Clemmensen continue to display less than average performances for the Leafs this season, we may see some scenarios unfold. One would be to place Raycroft on waivers, thus dropping his 2M salary. I think it is the most logical scenario, but only if happens in the off-season. Dropping Raycroft now would leave us with Scott Clemmensen taking over as the back-up, a position he could not hold with the Devils, never mind the Leafs. So if Pogge continues to play great hockey for the Marlies, attempting to drop Raycroft would open a spot for Pogge as the back-up behind Toskala. At 22 ( next season), this type of move would only raise his confidence and he could learn a thing or two from goaltender Vesa Toskala in the process. Another scenario would be to trade Raycroft, but they might find that to be quite difficult considering his recent struggles ever since he won the Calder Trophy.
One thing is for certain, Justin Pogge is among a thin group of talented Leafs prospects that have very high expectations to perform, and for obvious reasons.