For long-time Toronto Maple Leafs fans, the name Justin Pogge is a blast from the past. He used to be with the Maple Leafs. And, like many young goalies, he had a short time in the NHL, but he just didn’t make it.
He was still a good goalie, just not at the NHL level.
However, his biggest problem was that he simply wasn’t Tuukka Rask.
Who Was Justin Pogge?
Pogge was a highly-touted goaltending prospect who was drafted by the Maple Leafs in the third round (90th overall) of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. He had a hugely successful junior career, particularly with the Calgary Hitmen in the Western Hockey League (WHL). There he earned a number of accolades and awards for his outstanding performance in the net.
As he progressed through the ranks of the Maple Leafs organization, the expectations of him grew higher. He was so good in the Maple Leafs organization that he was considered the team’s future goalie. He was seen as their potential franchise goalie.
Pogge Hit the AHL’s Marlies on Fire
In the 2006-2007 season, Pogge had a remarkable season with the Toronto Marlies, the team’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate. He played 50 games; in those games, he put up a 2.34 goals-against average (GAA) and a .920 save percentage. The organization saw him as one of the top goaltending prospects in the league.
Coming to the Maple Leafs at the same time as Tuukka Rask. However, the organization decided it didn’t need two good young goalies and they made a choice to keep Pogge. In short, it turned out to be the wrong choice.
Pogge Did Not Have Success at the NHL Level
Pogge also gained attention after his outstanding performance at the 2006 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships. There he helped Canada win the gold medal. However, despite the high expectations, Pogge never found success in the NHL. He never found a permanent spot on the Maple Leafs’ roster and spent most of his professional career playing in the minor leagues and overseas.
On the other hand, Rask (who was drafted by the Maple Leafs in the first round of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft) was traded to the Boston Bruins in exchange for goaltender Andrew Raycroft. This trade proved to be a significant turning point for both franchises. Up for Boston; down for Toronto.
Rask Became an NHL Star
Rask went on to become the starting goaltender for the Bruins and turned into one of the top NHL goalies of his era. He played a crucial role in the Bruins’ success for many seasons. He helped them do what the Maple Leafs had not done in a long time – win Lord Stanley’s Cup at the end of the 2010-2011 season.
In contrast, Pogge’s career simply didn’t pan out. As a result, the decision to trade Rask for Raycroft has been heavily criticized over the years. Rask was hugely successful, but Raycroft’s performance with the Maple Leafs wasn’t.
Pogge only played seven NHL games, finishing his career with a 4.36 GAA and a .844 save percentage. During the 2009-2010 season, he was traded to the Anaheim Ducks for a conditional draft pick. He never played a game for the Ducks, was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes in 2010, and never saw action there either. He spent the rest of his professional career primarily in the AHL and European leagues.
Pogge Remains Part of Maple Leafs’ History
Despite not fulfilling the lofty expectations placed on him in Toronto, Pogge remains a part of the Maple Leafs’ history. He was a highly-touted prospect who couldn’t quite make it at the NHL level.
Sadly, he’s remembered by some fans as the goalie the Maple Leafs kept when they let Rask go. Perhaps, it isn’t fair – but that’s the nature of history.
Pogge came into the news recently. He’s currently coaching with Hockey Canada and serving as a goalie consultant at the World Championships. He had served in the same capacity at the U18 Hockey Championships in April.
Welcome back, Justin.