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Pogge Named Top CHL Goalie

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
May, 29, 2006

MONCTON, N.B. (CP) -- Look for Alexander Radulov in a Nashville Predators sweater soon.

The Quebec Remparts star was named player of the year in major junior hockey Saturday night. The 19-year-old Russian plays his last junior game when the Remparts take on the Moncton Wildcats in the Memorial Cup final Sunday.

Justin Pogge hopes to be in the lineup with the Leafs next season.
(Getty Images)

The six-foot-one, 188-pound right-winger scored 61 goals in 62 games during the regular season and won all the major QMJHL offensive awards. He has continued a near goal-a-game pace during the post-season.

Radulov got the nod as the player of the year in all three major junior leagues at the Memorial Cup banquet. Polish centre Wojtek Wolski of the OHL's Brampton Battalion and Penticton, B.C.-born goaltender Justin Pogge of the WHL's Calgary Hitmen were the other finalists.

"I worked for this - I gave everything - but, if I could, I would trade this for the Memorial Cup,'' said Radulov.

Nashville selected him 15th overall in the 2004 NHL entry draft and signed him to a three-year contract last autumn. He's played on Russia's world junior teams and is the younger brother of Chicago Blackhawks draftee Igor Radulov.

The Remparts star is an above-average puck handler, has a potent wrist shot, can make precise passes and has a passionate competitiveness.

The main knocks against him have been that his skating is only slightly above average, he's not strong enough in his own zone and he sometimes is nullified by physical pressure, but he's getting better all the time and is good enough to have a legitimate chance of cracking the Nashville lineup next autumn.

"My father always told me, `Always try to be the best,''' he said. "When I came to Canada and started playing and saw Sidney Crosby play (for Rimouski), I asked myself, `Why not you?' So I worked for this.''

Crosby was player of the year in 2004 and 2005.

Radulov, who says his favourite NHL players have been Sergei Fedorov and Alexander Mogilny, said the Predators have spoken to him about joining their farm team in Milwaukee after the Memorial Cup final for the AHL's championship series.

Pogge won the award for best goaltender. The 20-year-old Toronto Maple Leafs prospect (90th overall, 2004) was 38-10-6 with 11 shutouts and a 1.72 goals-against average during the WHL season. He won the league's outstanding player award, and he played spectacularly in helping Canada win gold at the world junior tournament in Vancouver last January.

Pogge, who is determined to win a job with the Leafs next autumn, wasn't jumping up and down for joy about winning the national goaltending honour.

"It's just an award,'' he said. "It's not going to change how I play or prepare for things.

"I'm not going to prepare any different just because I'm goaltender of the year. I've still got a long ways to go.''

Keith Yandle of the Wildcats was named defenceman of the year, John Tavares of the Oshawa Generals was top rookie and Jordan Staal of the Peterborough Petes was deemed top draft prospect.

Will Desjardins of the Medicine Hat Tigers got the Brian Kilrea Award as coach of the year.

Kris Russel of the Tigers was most sportsmanlike player, Pierre-Marc Guilbault of the Shawinigan Cataractes was scholastic player of the year and Mike Angelidis of the Owen Sound Attack won the humanitarian award.

Yandle was the most impressive offensive-minded defenceman in Canada this year. The 19-year-old blue-liner scored 25 goals and assisted on 59 for the Wildcats. Being from Boston, it's no surprise that his favourite NHL player has been Ray Bourque.

"His son, Chris, is one of my best friends and Ray helped coach my high school team,'' said the six-foot-two American. "He's helped me a lot.''

He'll go to the Phoenix Coyotes' camp next autumn intending to crack the NHL lineup.

"I'm going to work out this summer and hopefully go into camp and maybe turn a few heads, work my hardest and try to get a spot on the team,'' he said.

Yandle said he wasn't nervous about his last junior game.

"I still don't think it's really hit me that we're going to be playing in the Memorial Cup final,'' he said. "Hopefully it doesn't hit me until after the game, so I don't get nervous.''

Tavares, 15, scored 45 goals and assisted on 32 for the Generals after being given exceptional player status so he could be eligible for the OHL draft. The top rookie award is another indication the native of Oakville, Ont., will be pegged as the top prospect for the 2009 NHL entry draft.

"I'm definitely very proud of myself,'' he said. "Hopefully, I can continue being successful next season and help (the Generals) become a winner.''

Mike Modano is his favourite NHL player.

"I really like the way he plays the game and the way he's a leader out there,'' said Tavares. "He's definitely a player I'd like to be like one day.''

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