Florian Xhekaj would like to imitate his brother at camp in September

Carl Vaillancourt
July 7, 2024  (4:21 PM)

Florian Xhekaj
Photo credit: Picture

In 2021, the imposing defenseman Arber Xhekaj surprised everyone at the Canadiens' camp after receiving an invitation despite not being drafted by the team.

He shocked the hockey world and journalists by earning a spot on the Canadiens' defensive squad. A few years later, his younger brother Florian might follow in his footsteps at the team's camp this fall.
The draft is not an exact science, and nothing indicates that an undrafted player cannot secure a spot on an NHL team and achieve success. There are many such examples.
This fall, Florian Xhekaj will attempt to secure a spot with the main club, though he might return to Brantford for his final junior season. Last season, he accumulated 65 points in 63 games with the Brantford Bulldogs, along with 81 penalty minutes.
Last April, he signed his entry-level NHL contract. The younger Xhekaj will attend the training camp with one goal in mind: to force the Canadiens to keep him and avoid returning to the OHL's Brantford Bulldogs.
It would still be surprising, given all the one-way contracts the Canadiens have offered to players within the organization.

Florian Xhekaj with the Canadiens next season?

TVA Sports - "I have the confidence to play with the Canadiens this year": Florian Xhekaj says he's ready for the NHL
"I don't want to go back to Brantford, so I see myself in Montreal or Laval, but I have the confidence to play with the Canadiens this year" - Florian Xhekaj

According to Director of Player Development Rob Ramage, the young man's progress has been greatly noticed by the Canadiens. His on-ice attitude, intensity, and ability to deliver big hits at key moments suggest the possibility of a fourth-line role within one or two seasons.
"He had a very good season last year. He started on the wing, moved to center, and took off. He's sturdy at 6'3" and 195 pounds, though he won't be as big as his brother, who's like a truck at 240 pounds" - Rob Ramage

According to Florian, the experience he gained during his stint with the Laval Rocket last season will be beneficial. Even though it was only for three games, he says he learned many things that will be useful going forward.
"It was very beneficial for me," acknowledges the young man. "I played with older guys; it was different. Everyone is bigger, stronger, older, and has been playing longer."

"I absorbed as much as I could from those games and am trying to apply it to my game to be ready, no matter where I play next season." - Florian Xhekaj

The Canadiens' Co-Director of Amateur Scouting, Nick Bobrov, has been very complimentary of the young forward, saying he is a unicorn—a player who can do everything on the ice.
"Florian Xhekaj is a unicorn. Personally, I would love to come out of the draft with this guy on our team." - Nick Bobrov

See around the 13th minute of the video below:

In a recent appearance on BPM Sports, prospect expert Martin Therriault shared his opinion on Florian. His view might disappoint many, including Florian himself.
"It's clear that it's not easy. I think it depends on what we see as Florian Xhekaj's offensive ceiling. If we think he has a chance to one day play in a top-6 or top-9 role and we want him to work on his offense, I think a season at 20 years old in the OHL would be good." - Martin Therriault

By his own admission, Therriault would send Florian Xhekaj to Laval for the entire season. Based on his profile, Florian Xhekaj is projected to evolve into a third or fourth-line player in the NHL eventually. If he impresses the management, he could move to Laval on the fourth line and gain the necessary experience to help the Canadiens when he's ready.
Around 9:30 of the audio below:
BPM Sports - A realistic potential of 50-60 points for Michael Hage, but maybe even more!
Everything depends on the organization's vision for him. It will be interesting to see what the management has planned for the young man...
Florian Xhekaj would like to imitate his brother at camp in September

In which destination Florian Xhekaj starts the season next year?

Brantford Bulldogs (OHL)3710.7 %
Trois-Rivières Lions (ECHL)185.2 %
Laval Rocket (AHL)26376.2 %
Montreal Canadiens (NHL)277.8 %
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