Leafs: Where are they now? Justin Pogge
Once considered one of the top goalie prospects in the league, the name Justin Pogge used to give hope to Leafs fans everywhere. Now almost 18 years after he was drafted, his name brings nothing but sorrow. How did this happen you might ask? Let's find out.
The build up
This story begins after an impressive rookie year in the WHL, which saw Pogge post a .900sv% (save percentage) in 44 games with the Prince George Cougars. Due to impressive minor league play, Pogge was drafted 90th overall to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Post draft, Pogge still wasn’t a well known prospect however after two more solid years in the WHL, he finally caught his big break. Pogge was named Team Canada's starting goaltender for the 2006 World Juniors. In the 6 games of the tournament, Pogge posted an insane .952sv% and only allowed 6 goals the entire tournament, aiding Canada to a gold medal. After this, there wasn’t a single Leafs fan on earth who didn’t know his name and each one of them believed he would be the future of the team.
At this time, there was another Leafs goalie prospect making waves in the organization, and his name was Tuuka Rask. Rask was drafted a year after Pogge and had been putting up amazing numbers playing in Europe. Neither Rask nor Pogge were ready to make the jump to the NHL at this point, so the Leafs had to make one of the toughest decisions in the team's long history, they had to trade one of these prospects for a goalie who could play right now.
Now, unless you’ve been living under a rock since 2006, you probably know what happened next. “The Boston Bruins have acquired goaltender Tuukka Rask from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for goaltender Andrew Raycroft”. At the time, not many people had any issues with this trade, the Leafs got an NHL-ready goalie (who had just won the Calder trophy for being the best rookie in the league) and got to hold onto Justin Pogge, their star prospect. Unfortunately for Pogge and all of Leafs nation, this is where the story begins to go downhill.
Pogge spent the next 3 seasons playing for the Toronto Marlies in the AHL. Pogge’s first season with the Marlies wasn’t exactly what most Leafs fans had hoped for. He posted a .896sv% in 48 games however this was Pogge’s first season playing against grown men so it was understandable. His second season with the Marlies was much more exciting, he posted a .908sv% in 41 games played, and a .918sv% in 4 postseason playoff games. At this point, Leafs fans were once again getting excited for the rise of Pogge and started wondering when he would make the NHL jump. Unfortunately, Pogge’s next and final season with the Marlies was nothing fans could get too excited about. Pogge regressed to that of his first AHL season and posted a .895sv% over 53 games.
On December 21, 2008, during his third AHL season, the moment Pogge and many Leafs fans had been waiting for finally happened. Justin Pogge was called up to the Toronto Maple Leafs and would be starting against the Atlanta Thrashers. In his first NHL game, Pogge and the Toronto Maple Leafs won 6-2, but the glory wouldn’t last long as this turned out to be Pogge’s first and only NHL win. Throughout the rest of this season, Pogge played in 6 more NHL games and gave up 25 more goals meaning that over his short NHL career, he only posted a mere .844sv%. Since then Pogge has not played a single game in the NHL.
On August 10, 2009, Pogge was traded to the Anaheim Ducks for a conditional 2011 draft pick. Pogge spent his next few seasons bouncing between different AHL clubs and even had a short stint in the ECHL with the Bakersfield Condors. During this time, Pogge managed to play some pretty good hockey, but unfortunately was unable to keep his foot in the door with any organizations. After the 2011-2012 season marked the end of Pogge’s North American hockey career, he would head overseas to continue his professional career.
Where is he now?
Jumping to the modern-day, you can still find Pogge living his professional hockey dream overseas in the Deutsche Eishockey League (DEL) in Germany. Before this, Pogge spent years playing in many different European pro leagues but seems like he has found his home after spending the last 3 seasons in the DEL. Although it’s not a well known league, Pogge is joined by many other players and goalies who played parts of their careers in North America and isn’t even the only goalie with NHL experience or the only goalie to have been a part of the Leafs organization in the DEL. Currently playing his first season in the DEL, Pogge is joined by Karri Ramo who played 159 NHL games and even 3 games with the Marlies in the 2016-2017 season before leaving North America and playing in Europe.
So even though Pogge never worked out for the Maple Leafs, I am happy to report he is still chasing his hockey dream! Even now almost 18 years since his draft!