Wilson: Pogge 'not ready to play in the NHL'

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 2:12 PM ET

BUFFALO -- Justin Pogge's ears were ringing last night, thanks to three late blasts of the HSBC Arena horn and the subsequent stinging words from coach Ron Wilson.

What looked to be Pogge's coming-out party turned into a nightmare for the young goaltender, whose shutout aspirations in pre-season action against the Buffalo Sabres were crushed by a late flurry by the hosts.

Having blanked the Sabres over the first 57:39, Pogge allowed power-play goals to Derek Roy and Paul Gaustad, the latter scoring with just five seconds left to even the score at 2-2.

The final blow came 63 seconds into overtime when an Ales Kotalik point shot somehow eluded him, leaving Wilson to declare that Pogge is not at the stage to be a Maple Leaf quite yet.

"Yeah, he played," Wilson said after his team's 3-2 loss. "But he made mistakes at the end. He allowed what looked like a great effort to dribble right down his chin.

"Obviously you wish he had the last goal back and that's kind of why he's not ready to play in the NHL. You have to be able to play poised all the way."

Wilson was not putting all the blame on the organization's top goaltending prospect. At the same time, he does not want Pogge to be hyped into some kind of saviour in pads, either.

"He's shown he has great talent and that's why we have to be patient with him," Wilson said. "You don't throw him under the bus or anything like that. He's learning his craft. But you guys should respect that and not put too much pressure on him."

Management's decision to go with Scott Clemmensen as the Marlies starter over Pogge during the AHL playoffs last spring was a head-scratcher. Pogge is the guy who would have benefited most from getting that post-season experience -- not Clemmensen, who isn't even in the Leafs system any more.

At least Pogge will get his shot to be The Guy on the farm this season, with coach Greg Gilbert expecting to give him 60-plus starts.

Of course, the Marlies were the furthest thing from Pogge's mind in the dressing room last night as he reviewed Kotalik's game-winner.

"He shot it, it was on edge and I thought I had it in my pants," Pogge said. "Instead it deflected in off my pants. I could have got it with my blocker but ... well, I just have to have a short memory."

Asked if he was ready for the NHL, Pogge, 22, replied: "I feel like I'm getting there. But I've got to find a way to close out games."

Ron Wilson couldn't agree more.


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