Florian Xhekaj Finished Regular Season With Incredible Performance As He Climbs Montreal Canadiens Prospect Ranking

Jul 8, 2022; Montreal, Quebec, CANADA; General view of the Montreal Canadiens table
Jul 8, 2022; Montreal, Quebec, CANADA; General view of the Montreal Canadiens table / Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

The Montreal Canadiens made what many thought was a controversial decision at the 2023 NHL Draft. There is often a debate between drafting for need and drafting the best player available, but it appeared the Canadiens drafted by last name.

Florian Xhekaj was selected in the fourth round, with the 101st overall pick. He was passed over in the 2022 NHL Draft and scored 13 goals and 25 points in 68 games for the Hamilton Bulldogs in 2022-23 before being drafted. As an 18 year old winger, more production is expected from an NHL draft pick.

Well, that production came this season. Either the Canadiens knew there was some late developing DNA in those Xhekaj bones, or they got really lucky with this pick, but Florian Xhekaj has flourished after being selected by the team.

He has had an exceptional 19 year old season and closed it out with an unbelievable performance to clinch home ice advantage in round one of the playoffs. Xhekaj entered the final game of the year with 60 points in 62 games and then had one of his best performances of the season.

Xhekaj got things started when he forced a turnover in the offensive zone and then got open in the slot. A point shot was sent in his direction and he redirected it from the high slot into the back of the net to open the scoring.

He added an assist later in the game as he came down the boards and picked off a puck that was sent around the wall. He held on to the puck just long enough to draw attention from the defender, then moved it to his teammate behind the net who was left wide open. He walked to the front of the net and stuffed in his own rebound as the defenseman that should have been guarding the area was dealing with Xhekaj instead.

Xhekaj closed out the game with another goal. He carried the puck through the neutral before dishing it to his linemate. As he did, he immediately accelerated and jumped into open ice where he got the puck back with some open ice. He made no mistake with it as he cut to the slot and fired a wrist shot into the back of the net.

It was his second goal and fifth point of the game as the Bulldogs went on to win 5-1. Xhekaj's team jumped to third in their conference with the win and will now face the Ottawa 67's, who Xhekaj just scored five points against, in the first round of the postseason.