Montreal Canadiens: Arber Xhekaj Developing Shooter's Mentality With Laval

Calgary Flames v Montreal Canadiens
Calgary Flames v Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

In one powerplay sequence, Montreal Canadiens fan favourite Arber Xhekaj had three shots during a Laval Rocket powerplay.

Xhekaj seems to be almost automatic, if he gets the puck at the blueline, he doesn’t hesitate to shoot. Marc Bergevin has been criticized, but without his handy work, the Rocket top defence pair doesn’t exist. Bergevin signed Xhekaj and he drafted the disgruntled Logan Mailloux.

Anyways, back to Xhekaj - his freakish physical traits are still a staple of his game. But his potential growing to a top-four defenseman for the Canadiens is impressive. Xhekaj seemed to be a bottom-pairing shutdown defender, but he is proving to be so much more.

The outlook for the Canadiens blueline gets very interesting. Laval is going to have a lot of very talented NHL-calibre blueliners on their roster. Xhekaj’s growth in a short time with Laval has been noticeable, and it’s incredible how his high character overshadows all of his achievements. 

Xhekaj is a hard worker, who is doing the heavy lifting to form a pillar to the foundation of the Canadiens future blueline. It’s a great sign for the Habs' powerplay units next year and on, that more defenders are showing potential to quarterback a powerplay. 

I think of the Nashville Predators and to some extent, the Anaheim Ducks who have pumped up quality blueliners. The Predators produced Ryan Suter, Shea Weber, Seth Jones and Roman Josi - that is four number one defenseman and I didn’t even mention Mattias Ekholm. Pat Verbeek took advantage of his organizational defensive depth, shipping Jamie Drysdale - a potential No. 1 defender - to Philadelphia for Cutter Gauthier, who appears to be growing into a top-line NHL forward. 

The story's moral is that you can never have too many quality NHL defensemen in your prospect pipeline. Injuries occur and in the playoffs having strong depth is essential for success. The trade market is always pretty active for young defenders, and the organizational strength could be used to address weaknesses in other areas.

With Xhekaj learning more of the offensive side of the game from Logan Mailloux. The Canadiens have killed two birds with one stone, enhancing Mailloux’s offensive development, while refining his defensive game alongside Xhekaj. They have leaned on each other, and it has allowed them to flourish.

Just to add a little zest to the article, Xhekaj had a fight against Belleville, if you could call it that. Xhekaj didn't like something he saw, and he didn't hesitate at all to drop his gloves. The rest, well you watch and tell me what you think - to me, it's obvious who won.

We're waiting for you Arby, and my do your refined offensive skills look promising.