Florian Xhekaj's Junior Career Has Come To An End

Could Florian Xhekaj ink a deal with the Rocket, kickstarting his pro career before the start of the 2024-25 AHL campaign?
Hamilton Bulldogs v Windsor Spitfires
Hamilton Bulldogs v Windsor Spitfires / Dennis Pajot/GettyImages

Florian Xhekaj, the Montreal Canadiens fourth-round draft selection in 2023 wrapped his Ontario Hockey League career with a 6-1 loss against the Ottawa 67'S.

The loss came in the sixth game of the first round of the OHL playoffs, which ultimately saw the Brantford Bulldogs falter four games to two against Ottawa. Xhekaj, who is a late birthday was drafted two days after turning 19. Soon to be 20, Xhekaj could play another season of junior, but it doesn't seem the wisest for his development.

At this point of the year, there is a good chance that Xhekaj joins the Laval Rocket, if not on the ice, at least to gain some familiarity with the team. He could conceivably sign an professional try-out with the Rocket, to acclimate this season. Then next season, sign his entry level deal and play his first season with the Rocket.

Xhekaj developed into quite the story throughout his draft-plus-one season, shattering his previous career highs. He has proven that much like his older brother Arber, he is more than just a physical player. He managed a point-per-game season with 65 in 63 games, including 34 goals, a sign that he could provide some nice scoring depth for the Rocket.

But his jump from 13 goals just a season ago to 34, could translate to some untapped scoring potential in the pros. It would be silly to think he will come into the AHL and score 15-20 goals right away. But he knows how to use his size and skating combination to his advantage and with better linemates and coaching staff, he could turn into another great late-bloomer story.

I see real fourth line centre potential at the NHL level in him right now, and that seems pretty on par with where he will end up. But some players who hit their stride a little later end up being pleasant surprises. So limiting him to fourth liner without ever playing any professional hockey would be an insult.

Daniil Sobolev, Xhekaj's teammate with the Bulldogs is also eligible to begin his professional hockey career. Although it may be tougher for him to get playing time, considering how strong the depth is on the blueline in Laval. Depending on the direction the organization plans to go next year, the rookies could play important roles, Xhekaj in the AHL, and Sobolev possibly in the ECHL, depending on the Trois Rivieres Lions situation.