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Tony Marinaro wonders what’s wrong with Xhekaj’s development
Credit: Capture d'écran / Screenshot

Last night, Arber Xhekaj was Martin St-Louis’ least-used defenseman against the Capitals.

He spent a meagre 12 minutes and 29 seconds on the ice… And he was the only defenseman to play less than 14 minutes.

That says a lot about Martin St-Louis’ confidence in him.

Clearly, the Sheriff’s season is not living up to expectations. He was good last year, to the point of being virtually indispensable in Martin St-Louis’ line-up because of his robustness…

But right now, it’s more difficult. Xhekaj went to work on his defensive game in Laval and since his recall, his playing time speaks for itself:

  • 16:25 against the Senators on January 23
  • 11:42 against the Islanders on January 25
  • 12:29 against the Capitals last night

Tony Marinaro discussed the young defenseman’s situation on BPM Sports today, and his conclusion of the story is that there’s something wrong with Xhekaj’s development.

Why? Because he’s playing less and less.

Because he’s playing less and less, unlike, say, a guy like Jayden Struble, who’s progressing by leaps and bounds :

It’s easy to like a guy like Arber Xhekaj because of his track record.

The defenseman isn’t afraid to throw down the gloves in defense of his teammates or to volley at an NHL behemoth, and that element is also appreciated by the team’s fans.

That said…

I may not be making any friends by saying this, but maybe Xhekaj has reached his ceiling too if we take the toughness aspect out of the discussion.

We’re talking about a guy who’s never been drafted into the National League, after all…

And there’s a reason why teams repeatedly ignored him at the draft.

The Habs will have a decision to make if the defenseman’s development continues to remain in neutral.

And the idea of seeing him transferred to the wing of an attacking trio could become really interesting, because he’s proven that he can be useful to an NHL club because of his toughness.

Breaking news

– To be continued.

– Nice gesture.

– The club needs depth at bat.

– He’s in my top-3. How about you?

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