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Canadiens Xhekaj Discusses New Fighters In Atlantic Division



Montreal Canadiens defenceman Arber xhekaj

It was a stoic Arber Xhekaj who addressed the media at the annual Montreal Canadiens Children’s Foundation golf tournament.

Xhekaj, 22, was one of the best stories that emerged from the 2022-23 NHL season. He made history by becoming the only undrafted defenceman in the history of the NHL who made the jump directly from CHL, a rather impressive achievement on its own. But he also established that he was more than just a fighter.

Yes, he’s one of the toughest players in the league, and yes, he played an integral part last year, providing crucial entertainment for Habs fans in a year that was otherwise disappointing from a performance point of view.

However, his impact went beyond stealing Zach Kassian’s soul at centre ice.

Like most players on the team, his numbers eventually trailed off once injuries piled up, but for the better part of the season, Xhekaj was putting up healthy underlying numbers, indicating that many, including myself, misjudged his potential impact.

MUST READ: What I Got Wrong About Montreal Canadiens defenceman Arber Xhekaj

Xhekaj didn’t win all his fights, though his losses were few and far between. You could easily argue that former Habs forward Nicolas Deslauriers got the best of the rookie during their mid-season encounter, but the rest of his fight card featured several knockouts and many unanimous-decision wins.

Any time a young player enters the league and quickly gets the best of the majority of the tough guys, teams will take notice. Consequently, both the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins added a significant element of truculence to their lineup, by signing Ryan Reaves and Milan Lucic, respectively.

Atlantic Division Arms Race

The 6’4, 240 lbs defenceman was asked about the recent additions to the Atlantic Division. He provided the media with an answer that proves he is wiser beyond his years.

“With a little more experience, I don’t have to get my name out there as much anymore with the physical side, because guys know,” said Xhekaj. “I’ll just stick to my game, and still bring the heat.

“I guess I might be the guy now that they’re coming for, but that’s okay, I’ll deal with it when the time comes,” said Xhekaj with a wry smile.

When specifically asked about Reaves and Lucic, Xhekaj once again brushed aside any notion that he should be worried about the roster changes from various opposing teams.

“I don’t really put too much stress on myself,” said Xhekaj, “They’re big, physical guys, but I’m not a small guy, either.”

Simply put, he is taking the right approach.

He knows he put the league on notice last year, but he’s not ready to rest on his laurels.

“Obviously last year, everything I did was a surprise to everyone,” he said. “This year, I have to bring my experience, and the same mentality I had last year, and I’ll be good.”

He’ll attempt to do so with a clean bill of health, which should be a significant factor as he continues to fight for a permanent role in the NHL.

According to Xhekaj, his shoulder is stronger than it was before. Logically, this will lead to an elevated level of confidence as he approaches the upcoming training camp.

But don’t mistake confidence for arrogance.

Few players in the league have a better appreciation of what it takes to succeed than Montreal Canadiens defenceman Arber Xhekaj.

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I think this team has been missing this element. A protector so to speak. Like the days of Knuckles. Fists of Fury.


Love to see them go get Deslaurier just to beef up (pun intended) the grit.

4th line of Pezz Evans Deslaurier, with Xhekaj on D….

John Smith

I so hope that he does not waste his burgeoning talent on getting into fights. He should model himself along the lines of Chara. Yes, be scary but more importantly, be a good defender.


I can’t agree with this more. This guy is a unicorn. He is obviously, big, strong and intimidating, but as a PTO he has come out of nowhere with his talent. One bad fight and the Habs lose a very useful player for the season. It already happened last year. Yes, he should use his power to intimidate other players but he shouldn’t morph into the designated face puncher. That is the waste of a talented player. He should be coached to be smarty about putting himself into situations where he gets suckered into fighting.


Absolutely! Could see last year the kid can play…’development’ team should love all his potential…can easily see him as second pairing guy w some more experience!


Xhekaj is a very good defenceman, he has the physicality to clear the front of the net and the smarts to kill opponets rushes by driving guys wide and cutting off their passing and shooting lanes. He also has some pretty good offensive skills, in many ways he plays like a Larry Robinson light. I’m not saying he’s as good as Robinson but he can play a similar role and that can include the intimidation side. After Big Bird mopped the floor with Schultz his simple presence on the bench was enough to keep teams honest on the ice. He didn’t fight much but everyone was on their vest behaviour when he was playing. Let Reeves and or Lucic come to him, dont seek them out unless they take a run at someone. But when they do come and he beats them into submission then rhe simple.fact that he’s on the bench will be enough to keep guys from.running Caufield or Suzi