Hope of the CH and Mountain Man of the Bulldogs – TVA Sports

If Shea Weber has been called the “Mountain Man” in the NHL, that title would likely apply to Arber Xhekaj in Canadian junior hockey.

Well, the Montreal Canadiens still have a few husks to eat before hitting the 230-pound Weber, but at 6’4 and 204 pounds, the Hamilton Bulldogs guard has proven himself as a true force on the rink this season.

“He’s a man on the ice,” Bulldogs coach Jay McKee said Monday morning, a few hours before his team’s first Memorial Cup game against the St. John C. Dogs. I think he’s the player with the most influence in the whole of OHL.

“He is imposing and has good individual skills. He can do anything on the rink. He can avoid pressure thanks to his skating or take opponents out of the game thanks to his physical fitness. We are lucky to have him here.”

To say he’s the player with the most influence in the entire OHL is quite a compliment when you consider that the league has several first-round picks in the NHL, including a teammate and third overall pick by the Ducks in 2021, Mason McTavish or Canada’s leading scorer White Johnston from Windsor Spitfire.

physical advantage

At the age of 21 – playing at his young age of 20 – Xhekaj really has the physique of a guy and you can understand his impact on the rink, especially when he faces 16 or 17-year-olds. Or 18 who are still in their growth spurt.

However, their effect goes beyond the physical benefits, Mackie says.

“A lot of 20-year-olds play in the league against younger players but don’t have a physical impact. I sometimes enjoy trying to push him and he gives me a hard time, gives the head coach, a 6’3″ and 195lb former NHL defender. […] He also has good hands and a good throw. He’s not just a defensive back.”

Certainly, though, some of the advantages afforded to him by his chassis will not return, or less, once he is in the pro, adds the coach.

“When Arber jumps to the pro, he will have to simplify his game a bit. He can now do things that will not work at the next level. For example, he will no longer be able to take out an opponent with just one arm. He will also have to play games faster.”

Ready for what’s to come

Last year was a little crazy for Xhekaj. Invited to the Habs camp after missing an entire OHL season due to the pandemic, he imposed the team’s hand, causing him to sign an entry contract. He then started the season with Kitchener Rangers before being traded to Hamilton, his hometown, with whom he won the championship.

“It is hard to describe in words what last season was for me. I hope now we can conclude this with a title [de la coupe Memorial]. ”

Because his short-term goal remains the Canadian title with the Bulldog. But in the medium term, he also has big ambitions.

“I will maintain the same mentality this summer while training, but I will have to work twice as hard because my goal is to play games in the NHL next year. I realize I will probably need some time in the minors but I will train with the goal of playing in the NHL.

In addition, if his name is causing you trouble while reading this text, know that Xhekaj is pronounced “Jack-aille”.

#Hope #Mountain #Man #Bulldogs #TVA #Sports

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.