Pogge is pining to pull on a Leaf

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:04 AM ET

Justin Pogge, the top goaltending prospect in the Maple Leafs organization, admits he will be "disappointed" if he does not get called up to the NHL club by the end of the season.

Pogge, who is quietly turning in an all-star campaign with the American Hockey League Marlies, was happy to see goaltending partner Scott Clemmensen get called up by the Leafs last week.

And, like most Leafs backers, he was glued to the tube Monday night when Clemmensen led Toronto to its first shootout victory of the season, a 4-3 triumph over the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Air Canada Centre.

While that triumph earned Clemmensen another start, -- this time against the Pittsburgh Penguins last night -- Pogge is champing at the bit to get his own taste of NHL life in the next three-plus months.

"Definitely, I would like to get the chance to see what it is like," he said. "Even if I didn't play, it would be a chance to experience things at that level. That's what I worked all summer for.

"If I don't get the opportunity, it would be disappointing. I'd just have to work hard all summer again to reach that goal."

Pogge, 21, has advanced by leaps and bounds from an inconsistent rookie year with the Marlies. This season, he is 12-2-4 with a 2.24 goals-against average, a .909 save percentage and a pair of shutouts.

"In the past, I would be so excited before a game, it would be like I was ready to play a football game. Then I would go out there and try to do too much," Pogge said.

"Now, I just take things in stride, try to keep an even keel and just let the puck hit me."

CAN'T RUSH IT

With young goalies such as Boston Bruins' Tuukka Rask and the Montreal Canadiens' Carey Price already having made their NHL debuts, some have questioned Pogge's development, a notion Marlies coach Greg Gilbert is quick to reject.

"You can't rush the process," Gilbert said. "Who's to say Tuukka Rask and Carey Price won't fall on their faces somewhere down the road because they were rushed into the NHL too soon?

"You can't say (Pogge) is less of a player because he's not there yet. Everyone should be excited about him. He's a great kid, a big kid, who works hard and just had to learn the dynamics.

"He had his eyes opened a bit last year. But he's coming around and starting to mature. He's becoming a man."


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