Montreal Canadiens Prospect Florian Xhekaj Proving Doubters Wrong As He Is On Fire In OHL

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

The Montreal Canadiens had a bit of an interested 2023 NHL Draft class. A trade of a late first and an early second round pick shortly before the draft landed them Alex Newhook, and left them with nine total selections to make.

Some of those picks would have fans kind of scratching their heads as the draft unfolded.

That was because three of their nine picks were goaltenders, which seemed a bit high. Also, no one had heard of Bogdan Konyushkov, the three forwards they picked didn't look like high scorers and four of the players they chose had been passed over in previous years.

Though little is really known about NHL prospects on the day they are drafted, this was a class that was easy to criticize. Of course, it takes time to see what these players will turn into and no one knows how a draft class will look five years down the road.

One player is starting to make the Canadiens 2023 draft class look much more reasonable and that is Florian Xhekaj.

When he was drafted in the fourth round, 101st overall after being passed over in the 2022 NHL Draft, and scoring just 25 points in 68 games last season, people questioned the pick. It appeared they were maybe hoping, guessing he would be a late bloomer like his older brother who played for the Canadiens.

Well, whether they were blindly hoping, or had some valuable insight that led them to believe the younger Xhekaj was on the verge of breaking out offensively, they were certainly correct.

Xhekaj has now more than doubled his point production from last season with yet another goal last night. The Brantford Bulldogs forward has shown some versatility playing both left wing and center this season and he has exploded offensively. The 19 year old now has 29 goals and 51 points in 54 games and is a key part of a deep offensive team that is poised for a long playoff run this spring.

Last night's goal saw him read the play well and attack the net at the right time without the puck. With his team on the power play, the puck came to him and he quickly redirected it into the back of the net against the Saginaw Spirit who are among the top teams in the Ontario Hockey League.

This was a night after he scored in the final minutes to give the Bulldogs a late victory as he snuck in behind the defense and redirected the puck into the goal.

He is, as you would expect based on his last name, a hard nosed winger who has no problem heading to the net to score goals. He has also shown some added skill and finesse this season to go with his 6'4" and nearly 200 pound frame.

Xhekaj recently had an impressive six game goal scoring streak and now has goals in consecutive games after going goalless for just one. So that's goals in eight of his last nine games and a nine game point streak. In those nine games he has ten goals and 14 points.

He has come a long way and proven a lot of people wrong who doubted his selection just eight months ago. Now, he looks like he has the ideal combination of size, skill and speed to become a bottom six contributor for the Canadiens in a few years.