Florian Xhekaj

Future NHL stars are developing in the Canadian Hockey League this season. Each week, NHL.com will highlight a few of the top NHL-affiliated prospects in the Quebec Maritimes Junior Hockey League, the Ontario Hockey League and the Western Hockey League.

Florian Xhekaj admits he has allowed himself to see into a future where he would have some very special company in the Montreal Canadiens dressing room.

Xhekaj, selected by the Canadiens in the fourth round (No. 101) of the 2023 NHL Draft, is the younger brother of Montreal defenseman Arber Xhekaj. Other than offseason pick-up hockey, the two never have played on the same team.

"That's just something I look forward to and hopefully I'm able to accomplish that and put on the same sweater as him at the same time," Florian Xhekaj said. "I think it would just be a dream come true playing with him."

With the success each brother has had this season, the chances of it happening is increasing.

Florian Xhekaj, 19, has 57 points (31 goals, 26 assists) in 60 games for Brantford of the OHL, including 18 points (12 goals, six assists) during an 11-game point streak from Feb. 9-March 2.

He has also shifted to center from left wing this season, making his progression that much more impressive.

"For a guy that's been converted from the wing, very impressed with his overall game," Canadiens director of player development Rob Ramage said. "He's really responsible in the [defensive] zone, supporting, not cheating. Then he gets up the ice and offensively, he's around it."

Florian Xhekaj 3

Xhekaj had played center occasionally growing up, but doing it in the OHL has been an adjustment. Face-offs were an early issue, but he has won 50.7 percent this season. He also has a plus-14 rating, up from the minus-17 he had in 68 games last season.

"I think face-offs were a pretty big challenge for me at the start, not taking face-offs for over a year," Xhekaj said. "My assistant coaches have been helping me in practice a lot. ... I think just that, and obviously in the [defensive] zone, it's different being in the middle. You're supporting every play, rather than being on your own page on wing. It's different, but I think I've adjusted well to it."

The defensive end might be harder to quantify, but the offense Xhekaj has supplied for Brantford is obvious. Some of his success has come from having more of a shoot-first mentality. He's averaging 2.69 shots on goal per game this season, up from 1.44 per game last season, when he had 25 points (13 goals, 12 assists) when the team was based in Hamilton.

"My confidence has been a lot better this year," Xhekaj said. "I'm getting touches on the power play and I'm playing with different guys and I think my line's been connecting really well and my confidence has been really good with the puck. I've been making a lot of plays, shooting a lot more. I knew I had a really good shot and last year I don't think I shot the puck that much. This year, anytime I'm in a shooting position, I'm firing it on net."

Ramage has overseen the development of Arber and Florian Xhekaj and said there are some similarities, especially in their physicality and work ethic. Arber, 23, is 6-foot-4, 240 pounds. Florian (6-3, 188) might not reach that size but certainly plays with the same kind of physical edge.

"He's been very, very good being disciplined, as far as not crossing that line," Ramage said. "He's still physical, he still hits hard. ... I wouldn't have said this last year, but you're more valuable on the ice. And he is. His team needs him on the ice. That's discipline. These guys obviously are both gamers. But there's a time where discipline has to take over and be more important than dropping the gloves and taking on a challenger.

"He can impact the game in other ways. But in hockey ways too, not just the physical. And it's really fun to watch what he brings to the table."

Florian Xhekaj set a preseason goal of scoring 30 goals, which he has done, and averaging one point per game, which he's nearly on pace to do. The next goal is joining his brother in the Montreal dressing room.

Ramage certainly is rooting for them.

"These guys are the ultimate team players," he said. "It would be very exciting. I hope it happens, but there's still development along the road here, for both of them."

Florian Xhekaj 2


Dalibor Dvorsky, C, Sudbury: The St. Louis Blues prospect had an assist in a 6-4 loss to Owen Sound on Sunday to give him 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists) during a 12-game point streak, including five points (two goals, three assists) in a 9-8 overtime win against Windsor on March 8, and another five (one goal, four assists) in a 6-1 victory against Barrie on Saturday. The 18-year-old, chosen with the No. 10 pick of the 2023 draft, leads Sudbury with 40 goals in 49 games despite starting the season with Oskarshamn of the Swedish Hockey League and not making his OHL season debut until Oct. 20, Sudbury's ninth game.

Cam Squires, RW, Cape Breton: The New Jersey Devils prospect had a season-high five points (three goals, two assists) in an 8-6 win against Acadie-Bathurst on Saturday. Selected in the fourth round (No. 122) of the 2023 draft, Squires leads Cape Breton with 69 points (32 goals, 37 assists) in 64 games.

Conor Geekie, C, Swift Current: The Arizona Coyotes prospect extended his point streak to 14 games with a goal and an assist in a 5-4 win against Edmonton on Sunday. The 19-year-old has 29 points (10 goals, 19 assists), including three four-point games, during his streak. Selected by the Coyotes with the No. 11 pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, Geekie has 95 points (41 goals, 54 assists) in 52 games with Wenatchee and Swift Current this season.

Related Content