broke into the NHL last season with the Montreal Canadiens as a relatively unknown talent. Xhekaj, now 23, was never drafted, and earned his contract with the Canadiens through sheer will and determination. After instantly becoming a fan favourite, Xhekaj has taken somewhat of a step back this season, sharing time between the Canadiens and their AHL affiliate, the Laval Rocket, something that has upset several fans. Head coach Martin St. Louis has now shed some light on the team's plan for the young blueliner.
Montreal's Head Coach Confirms Young Defender's Future
St. Louis was asked upfront today about Xhekaj's future in the NHL. He indicated he wants to see Xhekaj learn from his mistakes faster.
"You know, I always say this... Make mistakes, and stop making the same one... You have to learn from your mistakes a bit, you know."
St. Louis added he sees Xhekaj spending more time in the AHL in 2023-24
"So no, he had a good time in Laval, I saw him play in Laval and I think he needs more reps at this stage, to really get used to the NHL game which is faster."
Young Canadiens Defenceman's Fate Confirm by Head Coach
Xhekaj has played 20 games with the Montreal Canadiens in 2023-24, scoring 1 goal and adding 3 assists. Xhekaj isn't with the team to score, necessarily. The six-foot-four, 230-pounder is never shy to defend teammates or answer the bell. However, it seems St. Louis is saying he needs to be a better defender, something the AHL can certainly help with. At the same time, his name has also come up in recent trade rumours as the Canadiens remain firmly in rebuild/reset mode. No doubt he can add some grit to a team looking for more sandpaper in the lineup.