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Canadiens Analysis

What I Got Wrong About The Montreal Canadiens: Arber Xhekaj



Montreal Canadiens defenceman arber xhekaj

For the most part, I use publicly available data when analyzing the Montreal Canadiens, while also keeping a close eye on the footage, in an attempt to get a complete picture.

After all, hockey analysis is all about nuance.

But there’s no denying that several of my predictions and projections fell short, an inevitable symptom of working in the industry.

In this series, we will take a look at some of my worst predictions throughout the year for two reasons.

First, there’s absolutely no shame in admitting you’re wrong. But more importantly, it’s always good to take a look back at why certain predictions were made, as to establish why we came to that conclusion, and how we can avoid making mistakes in the future.

Arber Xhekaj – More Than a Fighter

I’ll admit, I probably didn’t give Arber Xhekaj a chance from the moment he joined the organization. I was confused as to why former general manager Marc Bergevin invited him to training camp in 2021, and I rolled my eyes when he offered him a contract shortly thereafter.

After all, Xhekaj’s production with the Kitchener Rangers was mediocre, at best.

But there was also a bias at play.

If a player is mostly known for fighting, he is unlikely to bring anything (of value) to the table in the NHL. I still maintain that in most cases, it’s true, but because of my bias, I essentially wrote off Xhekaj’s NHL potential from the very get-go.

As one NHL agent told me when I explained why I wrote Xhekaj off, “You couldn’t have gotten that more wrong if you tried.”

But even with a very solid 2021-22 OHL season in the books, I was still was not very bullish about his NHL chances. The Montreal Canadiens had way too many defensive prospects vying for a job, and there was no way Xhekaj was going to leapfrog Kaiden Guhle or Jordan Harris.

Fortunately, I didn’t bang the negativity drum very loudly on social media, as it started to become apparent that Xhekaj was going to turn into a fan favourite and I was working for the Canadiens at the time. A poorly filmed, three-second video with bad audio at development camp drummed up well over 100,000 impressions in short order, owing to Xhekaj’s outgoing and affable personality.

By the time the 2022 Rookie Tournament in Buffalo came around, the hard-hitting defenceman had become one of the most popular young players on the team, which meant it was time for an updated teaser video for the throngs of rabid fans demanding more Xhekaj-based content.

For the record, it was Xhekaj’s idea to address fans in French, a nice touch from a young man that would soon make history.


Never Been Done

Xhekaj announced his arrival on the scene with a vicious knockout of Ottawa Senators prospect Zachary Massicotte, the culmination of many plays in which the rough-and-tumble blueliner drove the entire Senators team up a wall.

But in between those plays, Xhekaj looked good.

He was driving the play when necessary, shutting down the rush with ease, and overpowering all his opponents while maintaining solid defensive positioning.

I wasn’t sold, yet, but I was starting to think that Xhekaj may be the first defenceman in NHL history to be ignored at the draft multiple times and then jump directly into a team’s starting lineup.

By the time the main training camp rolled around, not only was Xhekaj being considered for the NHL roster, but at times, he seemed like one of the most likely options to earn a job with the Canadiens.

He’d go on to enjoy a very solid season, all things considered, the type of season that you would never expect from a player of his ilk, especially if you tend to have a bias against bigger, physical players.

This, in retrospect, is exactly what happened when I evaluated his long-term potential with the Montreal Canadiens and it’s something I’ll have to keep in mind as the team continues to navigate the choppy waters of a rebuild.

Arber Xhekaj, if you’re reading this, I owe you my apologies, I got this one wrong.

So very wrong.

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Alex Barrette

When i first saw him play in buffalo rookie camp, i was really impressed by how he was skating with his head high . Making tape to tape passes, 4way mobility. Saying his physical presence was dominant was an understatement. He was clearly not in the same league as these kids. Arber was a grown man.

billy mitton

Arber i knew was over from day 1 MB brought him in.
Did i think he was jump straight to NHL good? i wasnt against it

I went through this with Michael Pezetta in i believe 2018???
He came in just a goon, no real hope for anything more then a light weight fighter.
He came into Camp knocked out 6’5 Keaton Middleton who was released from TML organization not to long after that.

Why would a fight get me over if i wrote him off ?
He took on a giant and won based on Strategy.
He use that momentum to rally his teams offense.
While he didnt score he did shoot and teams took notice.
Suddenly a Coach that had not even considered him in the Match up plans is accommodating their lines to try to stifle his momentum.

I knew he’d take time but i understood he was there more then just to fight.
He was there to take out obstacles by any means necessary whether it be fighting, hitting , Blocking Shots or just outright shooting thereby overwhelming unsuspecting defensman.

Its all about looking at What The Team Needs.
Like there was no Pezetta equivelant in our system
There’s no one like Xhekaj there either or even in the NHL for that matter.
People will say his Brother but they’re different types of players.
Arbers a Protector while Florian’s favorite guys are Tkachuk brothers, Wilson and im assuming on this last one Marchand as he’s a Pest and loves every second of it. Really the vibes i get is late stage Corey Perry for his upside. Even a 32+ year old Perry projection is still clutch in todays game as he’s shown with 4 SCF in 5 years after turning 31 years old no less but i digress.

My point was you have to look at Fighters as a Whole and at their Character. If they’re mentally Tough understanding Fighting in todays game isnt about Instigating a ton of them its about Finishing them strong Win,Lose or Draw leaving it all out there like Subban said “the fans will love you forever for it.”


You got this one wrong alright but it’s not the only one not by any means.The days of the flying frenchmen are in the past pal deal with it.


Even though he dished it out, I don’t think he will last last absorbing that kind of punishment.


Loved this guy from the moment I saw him. Happy to say I was in his corner way before most knew who he was. I’m no prospect evaluator, but the first time I saw him play, I just saw something there that had me believing in him.


I watched Arber play during the season and especially in the OHL playoffs and it didn’t take a rocket scientist to see the talent. He was a man among children.

How many games did you actually watch to base your article on…
You got it 100% wrong, but at least you hone up to it which isn’t the case with many so called experts that can’t skate.


Arber is EXACTLY what this team needs !

Robert Goudreau

When i saw Arber play for Hamilton, i said to myself, that guy is NHL ready, and i was right.