Florian Xhekaj is Turning Heads in Brantford

Hamilton Bulldogs v Windsor Spitfires
Hamilton Bulldogs v Windsor Spitfires / Dennis Pajot/GettyImages

Florian Xhekaj currently sits #4 in points on a very offensively productive Brantford Bulldogs team. Drafted in round 4 101st overall by the Canadiens in the 2023 NHL entry draft. His height is listed as 6 foot 4 and weighs 190 pounds and growing. Xhekajs game has seen a massive shift offensively this season. Last season he played in 68 games and only managed 13 goals and 12 assists for 25 points with 75 penalty minutes. (-17)

This season coach Jay Mckee of the Brantford Bulldogs, who was a big influence on big brother Arber's unlikely rise to the NHL, has seemed to push Florian towards being more productive and reliable offensively. He plays in most big moments in games with the Bulldogs. After last year's point total, fast forward to now. Florian is sitting at 31 goals, and 24 assists for 55 points. While maintaining his physical prowess with 75 penalty minutes in just 57 games (Xhekaj is also a plus 17 on the season). It is clear that Florian has taken major leaps this year. He seems to be very comfortable in any role he is given on the ice and is a fan favourite, and from what I have gathered he is also a favourite in the dressing room amongst his teammates.

I have watched pretty much all of Xhekaj's games in person this year and here are my notes:

Florian has an underrated shot. He is very good at seeing a play develop and making sure he is there to support it. At 6 foot 4 inches tall Florian is a big boy and is not afraid to use his body. Whether it be a big open ice hit, grinding on the boards or making room for himself in front of the net. His hands are also quite surprising, he has had a few highlight reel goals that have even surprised the Brantford faithful at times. Xhekaj is very vocal on the ice. Talking the entire game, he definitely gets it from his brother. There is zero fear.

To be a fair review of his play i must give a downfall:

Recently (the last half of the season) this hasn't been an issue but if Florian is playing well it directly relates to his physical play, if he isn't using his body there are times he looks out of place out there and not very noticeable. I have noticed at times if he is not into it physically it shows but just like that, someone could take a run at him, light a fire under him and he will finish the game strong. These are growing pains for a young player. He was much more streaky at the beginning of the season and has become very reliable night in and night out for the dogs.

Many want to see Florian play in Laval next year. in my opinion, from what I have seen. One more year in the OHL would be fantastic for him. One more year to dominate the league, gain some weight then move onto Laval to turn some heads and hit the ground running. There is no rush with this kid and I think one more year in junior will have him ready to step up and play his physical game against men in the AHL.

The Canadiens were laughed at for taking Florian as high as they did in the draft, but now that we have seen this season Xhekaj is having, they knew something that we all didn't by taking him when they did. They also see the drive and work ethic big brother Arber has and what it took to get where he is now. The pick may have been based on factors like that at the time but now it is clear this kid was drafted right where he should have been. Brantford will be moving onto the playoffs shortly and I believe that the way this kid plays he will be a major part of Brantfords success in the higher intensity playoff hockey.