Saturday, March 22, 2008

Amateur Scouting Report: Justin Pogge

I had an opportunity to see the Leafs future #1 netminder tonight, as his Marlies visited Hamilton in the first game of a home-and-home, picking up a 3-2 victory in overtime. I say "future #1" with conviction after what I saw tonight. Not that there was any doubt before I got to see him in person, we all remember his great World Junior run, a tournament where he was named MVP of the gold medal winning Canadian squad.

First Impression

At first glance he looks very big, and takes up a lot of net. He is strong and powerful, but his balance and skating could still be improved. He likes to wander when playing the puck, but has a hard shot and great hockey sense. He always seems to know where his teammates are, and is able to get them the puck, even under pressure. That doesn't mean he is immune from any mistakes. A couple of times tonight he was caught hanging on to the puck for too long, and it nearly cost him.

Pros

He uses his size to his advantage, cutting down the angle very well. He is rarely caught out of position because of his power, which is a credit to his conditioning. His rebound control and reflexes both seem to be above-average, although one of the goals was scored when he got a large piece of a puck with his glove hand, it popped up in the air and landed in the net. I would write that off as a fluke because even getting his glove on the shot in the first place was remarkable.

Cons

His only downsides are his skating and balance, and they aren't even that bad. I'm really nitpicking when I say those are issues. They are just some areas he can improve at, although he is already better than most goaltenders in those areas. His maturity has also improved from last year, he now knows player's tendencies and has adapted very well to professional hockey.

Future

Pogge's future remains unchanged from when they brought him up from the Calgary Hitmen. Play 2 or 3 years in the AHL and gradually make his way to the #1 job in Toronto. I believe that a 3rd year in the AHL can only be a good thing for Pogge. There is absolutely no reason to rush him, especially when it is up to a lackluster team such as the Leafs. I can see him splitting time with Vesa Toskala next season, but I wouldn't like it. It's not that he can't handle it, he's just as ready as Carey Price, but he can only get better from playing in the AHL. The Leafs don't need him, and shouldn't waste him. I know for Leafs fans keeping Pogge down in the minors feels a little like Christmas Eve, but it's for the better if you wait until morning to open your present. You don't want to spoil the surprise.

2 comments:

Unholy_Goalie said...

He needs to be given a shot at the AHL. This sheltering of players from the big leagues in case of a total collapse is bogus. The whole point of giving this guy a shot is to see if he can handle it or not and we need to see that as early as possible. At 23, he's not MA Fleury at 19. Pogge wants to play in the NHL and while I doubt he will complain about playing in the AHL for another year, waiting another year is going to get him more acclimated to the AHL game, not the NHL game. Developing this guy at the NHL level should be the focus, not getting him use to guys who can't even crack the NHL.

AllanC said...

This is in response to the first comment.

The development of a goaltender is quite different from that of a player.

With the exception of very few goaltenders (Price, Mason, etc) the jump from Major Junior to the NHL is to big a leap; even for all-star world junior goaltenders.

The goaltending position is 90% mental, believe it or not, and throwing a kid on a sub-par NHL club where even seasoned goaltenders have struggled (Vessa Toskala, Raycroft, Telquivist, ec) is not good for that mental aspect.

Catch 22 of being a goaltender is if you win, you're the hero but if you lose, you're the goat. And you can bet more often then not, had pogge been with the Leafs this season he would have been the goat.

A goaltender with confidence is a force not to be reckoned with and with pogge playing well in the Minors this year (08-09) you can bet that he'll be bringing his A-game to the NHL table.