The Montreal Canadiens have found their new Ben Chiarot

Jeff Drouin
April 7, 2022  (10:47)

When we talk about the Canadiens' new defensemen, we immediately think of Kaiden Guhle, Logan Mailloux, Jordan Harris and Justin Barron.

But we forget about a certain Arber Xhekaj. The name may not ring a bell since he was never drafted, but this 6-foot-4, 204-pound giant defenseman impressed management at the team's last camp, so much so that Marc Bergevin immediately signed him to a three-year contract.
The 21-year-old is playing with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the Ontario Junior League this season and, as my colleague Keven Mawn of Fanadiens.com mentions,
Xhekaj has, by his own account, all the qualities required to one day play in the NHL, but his style of play can sometimes get in the way.
I mean, in my situation, all the guys are small for me right now. It's hard for me because I can't play completely free like I used to be able to and hit everything that moves. The league is handing out penalties and suspensions more harshly than they used to. It's not easy. But I should be okay at the next level...

The defenseman doesn't expect to make the jump to the big club next year because of the depth the team has on defense, but he did allow himself a little comparison of his game with former CH defenseman Ben Chiarot and Jake Muzzin of the Maple Leafs.
I can neutralize any player, any trio. I'm inspired by Chiarot," confided the main man. At training camp, at the beginning of the year, we had a similar game. That's the type of player I want to be at the professional level.

Defensemen like Chiarot and Jake Muzzin, those big, strong defensemen, those are the guys that get your team deep into the playoffs. It's a tough role to play, because having to play tough every night and throw the gloves down here and there, it takes its toll on your body. But I think I can do it.

Xhekaj also has some offensive talent, having 17 points in 32 games this season, and interestingly, one of his teammates with the Bulldogs, Jan Mysak, is also a Habs prospect and had nothing but good things to say about him.
He's one of the hardest workers I've seen on the ice and in the gym. He loves hockey. We push each other, we work overtime in the gym. We're really good friends.

It will be interesting to see how Xhekaj develops within the Habs' defenseman hierarchy. If you want to learn more about this prospect out of nowhere, I recommend the excellent article by Nicolas Cloutier of TVA Sports about him.
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The Montreal Canadiens have found their new Ben Chiarot

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