Pogge up for CHL award

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:38 AM ET

Justin Pogge is not intimidated by his competition for Canadian Hockey League player-of-the-year honours.

That's because he doesn't even know who the other finalists are.

"I couldn't tell you," the Maple Leafs' prized goaltending prospect said during a phone interview from Grand Prairie, Alta., yesterday. "I didn't even know I was nominated for it up until a couple of days ago.

"I don't really pay attention to those things."

Forgive Pogge for being naive about such a prestigious award.

He only arrived home this week from Latvia, where he served as Canada's third-string goalie behind Marc Denis and Alex Auld at the world hockey championship.

While he didn't see any game action, the experience of being around the likes of Sidney Crosby, Brendan Shanahan, Patrice Bergeron and Mike Comrie every day was a wonderful opportunity he feels will make him a better player in the long run.

"I'd seen Crosby on TV, sure, but you don't really appreciate how hard he works every day. He earns everything he gets,"Pogge said.

"When guys like Crosby, Bergeron and Comrie are pumping goals by you in practice, it pushes you to work that much harder. It was great just meeting and dealing with guys like that."

Pogge had no idea Hockey Canada planned to invite him. Having completed his memorable season with the Western Hockey League's Calgary Hitmen, Pogge, 20, came to Toronto last month to observe the playoff run of the Marlies, the Leafs top farm club.

"Suddenly, I got a call from (Marlies general manager) Mike Penny telling me Team Canada wanted me," he said. "It was so cool."

It was just another high in a season full of them for Pogge, selected 90th overall by the Leafs in the 2004 entry draft. He was spectacular in Canada's gold-medal performance at the world junior championship.

He was named the most outstanding player and goalie in the WHL after going 38-10-6 with a 1.72 goals-against average and 11 shutouts.

Now, he's vying for both those titles in the CHL.

Pogge is scheduled to fly to Moncton today, site of the 2006 Memorial Cup. Once there he will attend the CHL's award banquet tomorrow.

Pogge will be going up against Brampton Battalion forward Wojtek Wolski, a Colorado Avalanche prospect, and Quebec Remparts sniper Alexander Radulov, a Nashville Predators draft pick.


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