Former Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin
Photo credit: Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP

The Canadiens have reportedly acquired another first-round pick thanks to Marc Bergevin

Published January 9, 2024 at 1:34

Arber Xhekaj has quickly become a crowd favorite. If his playing style has won over fans, his story has also touched them deeply.

Never drafted, the now 22-year-old managed to convince Marc Bergevin (yes, indeed!) to sign him to an NHL entry-level contract. He then left his job at Costco to fully focus on hockey.

While he had an excellent first year with the club, despite a right shoulder injury that prevented him from finishing the last season, the current campaign has been more challenging. Nicknamed WIFI, he was eventually sent to the Laval Rocket following the recovery from another injury, this time to the upper body.

Xhekaj's start with Laval didn't go as everyone expected. He was very timid and somewhat disappointed many fans. However, things eventually fell into place, so much so that he is now one of the key players of the AHL club. His coach with the Rocket, Jean-François Houle, doesn't understand why the defenseman was never drafted!

"The young man has a future for an undrafted player, it's incredible that he slipped through the net. It's really hard to understand. He has very nice offensive qualities. His wrist shot is elite and for a big guy, he can move. The Canadiens got lucky. This young man is a first-round pick, so it's like a first-round pick fell on you. We had (Justin) Barron here, and he's as good as Barron, who was a first-round pick. I think he may even have more offensive skills than Barron. For me, when you look at them when they were both here, wow, this kid (Xhekaj) can be special." - Jean-François Houle

With his 8 points in ten games, including two goals, and his strong performances, the defenseman must be eagerly awaiting a call from the CH. However, the congestion at the big club's blue line will make the task more difficult. Seeing how his replacement, Jayden Struble, is currently playing, Xhekaj will have to hope for either a departure (trade), an injury, or several underperformances from another defenseman to get the desired call.

For now, also known as the Sheriff, he greatly helps in the progression of Logan Mailloux. J-F- Houle finds that Xhekaj greatly calms the young recruit, helping him to have excellent moments with the Rocket.

"I think playing with Xhekaj right now really helps [Logan Mailloux]. I think it calms him because Xhekaj is one of those guys who retrieves the puck, and he calms the game before making another play. So both of them together, they have been very good." - Jean-François Houle

Is this a duo we will see in the coming years with the CH? Time will tell!

January 9   |   1060 answers
The Canadiens have reportedly acquired another first-round pick thanks to Marc Bergevin

Who is better?

Justin Barron20119 %
Arber Xhekaj85981 %
Latest 10 stories