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Season over in the OHL: Florian Xhekaj free to come to Laval
Credit: Capture d'écran / Screenshot

Did you think you’d never see Xhekaj in Laval again this season? Not so fast.

If we’re playing with words, there’s a good chance we’ll see Xhekaj finish his season with the Rocket… but we’re not talking about Arber, the Montreal Canadiens defenseman.

We’re talking about his brother Florian.

As Stéphane Leroux reports, the Brantford Bulldogs player was eliminated in six games during the OHL playoffs. That was against the Ottawa 67’s.

The result? His season is over.

When a junior-aged player ends his season before the AHL club of the organization that drafted him is on vacation, it always begs the question: will he finish the season in the AHL?

And in the case of Florian ” Unicorn ” Xhekaj, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him in the Rocket’s entourage soon.

Does that mean he’d automatically play for the Rocket in the playoff race and in the playoffs, should the club ever manage to qualify for the spring dance? Not necessarily.

After all, the Rocket are playing important games right now, and bringing in an inexperienced guy to play isn’t necessarily ideal.

(Credit: The AHL)

I think Xhekaj will report to the Rocket to practice with the guys, but I’m not sure the club intends to play him. Jumping on a bandwagon isn’t easy.

Remember that in 2022, Riley Kidney and Joshua Roy practiced with the Rocket in the playoffs. The former didn’t play, but the latter ended up playing a playoff game more than a year before his full-time arrival in the pros.

In the end, it was a good learning curve for them, and it could be the same for Xhekaj.

The difference with Xhekaj? He’ll be 20 this summer and eligible to play in the pros in 2024-2025. Bringing him to Laval, even without playing, would give him a chance to get into a better rhythm at the next camp.

To me, that’s the real question: where will he play next year?

He has the profile of a guy who could return to junior at 20. After all, he’s not an exceptional player and has only two years’ experience in the OHL, only one of which was as a one-point-per-game guy.

(Credit: Hockey DB)

He’s the kind of guy who could do well in Laval next year, but wouldn’t consistently dominate. He’ll probably want to move to the pros and be closer to his brother, but the ideal, in my eyes, would be to send him back to Ontario.

Will Trois-Rivières be an option?

But the fact remains that being around the Rocket for the next few weeks would be a good idea. The new administration is a big believer in the principle that guys learn by doing.

To be continued.

In gusto

– Tomas Hertl is expected to play tonight.

– Not to be missed.

– Penguins: rewrite history by qualifying for the playoffs?[BPM Sports]

– En français, SVP.

– Speaking of the Lions.

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