Montreal Canadiens: Watch Arber Xhekaj Blast Home First Goal of OHL Playoffs

HAMILTON, ONTARIO - MARCH 14: Arber Xhekaj. (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images)
HAMILTON, ONTARIO - MARCH 14: Arber Xhekaj. (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images) /

The Montreal Canadiens scouts have been far from perfect over the past few years, but they unearthed a hidden gem somehow last fall.

The Canadiens invited Arber Xhekaj to their 2021 rookie development camp even though he had not played in the 2020-21 season since the Ontario Hockey League remained shut down for the entire year.

Xhekaj showed up and was excellent at that camp and earned an invitation to the team’s main training camp. There, he continued to impress and was signed to an entry-level contract after handling himself well during a handful of preseason games.

Xhekaj was then sent back down to Junior for his final, overage season with the Kitchener Rangers. They were retooling a bit and didn’t look like contenders so they traded him to the Hamilton Bulldogs who were already one of the top teams in the country.

The 6’4″ and 204 pound defender plays a punishing defensive game, but also chipped in with 34 points in 51 games. He was among the best two-way defensemen in the OHL this season.

He didn’t waste any time showing the offensive side of his game in the postseason.

The Bulldogs are the #1 ranked team in the OHL, and are taking on the 8th seeded Peterborough Petes. The two teams are playing their first game of the opening round series tonight and they played to a scoreless draw in the opening period.

Then, on a power play early in the second period, Xhekaj got open and hammered home a one-timer to open the scoring in the OHL postseason.

Xhekaj is no stranger to the power play, using his booming shot to keep goaltenders off balance. He plays a ton of minutes in all situations for the Bulldogs, and they will lean heavily on him throughout the postseason on what should be a very long run and possibly a berth in the Memorial Cup in Saint John, New Brunswick in June.

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