Pogge shows he has big-league game

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:48 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- Now that he has conquered the world with a red maple leaf on his chest, Justin Pogge may want to have a serious look at the leaf that is shaded blue.

The Maple Leafs prospect will be in Toronto next year, and it has been assumed he will play for the Marlies of the AHL. But with his profile elevated further by his outstanding performance at the world junior, there's no reason why he can't challenge for a job with the Leafs.

"You never want to get cut," a calm Pogge said last night after posting yet another shutout to give Canada its first gold on home soil since 1995. "That's my goal."

Pogge, the 90th pick overall by the Leafs in 2004, signed a three-year entry-level pact with the club last month. He said all he is worried about now is returning to the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL and trying to help the club win the Memorial Cup. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound native of Penticton, B.C., is bigger than present Leafs goalie Ed Belfour. But Pogge, who worked closely with Belfour last summer, resembles the latter in a couple of important ways: Pogge is sound positionally and has great puckhandling skills.

VERY COMPOSED

"He is just a very composed young man, and I never questioned him doing it (for Canada)," coach Brent Sutter said. "He's a tough goalie to beat and a mentally strong person."

How good is the Leafs' goaltending of the future looking? Pogge was Canada's player of the game last night, went 6-0 to tie a record for most wins in a tournament by a Canadian goalie, had a .952 save percentage and set a Canadian record for best goals-against average at 1.00 (of the six goals that got by him, only one was at even-strength).

But he was not named the top goaltender in the tournament by the IIHF, an honour that went to Finland's Tuukka Rask. He was the Leafs' first-round pick last year.

Marc Staal was named top defenceman, and Evgeni Malkin top forward and MVP.

The all-star consisted of Rask, defencemen Luc Bourdon (Canada) and Jack Johnson (U.S.) and forwards Malkin, Steve Downie (Canada) and Lauri Tukonen (Finland).

"I'll probably reflect in a couple of days," Pogge said. "I'm living the moment right now."


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