Arber Xhekaj’s story is unlike any other in the NHL. Just some years ago, he was working at Costco, getting passed over by every NHL team in two consecutive drafts.
However, the Montreal Canadiens signed him as an undrafted free agent, and since then, he has become a huge fan favorite in Montreal and one of the most feared enforcers in the league.
Despite his young age, Xhekaj has fought some of the toughest guys in the NHL and earned himself a great reputation for playing a tough, physical game.
But he hasn’t had the best start to the season. The 22-year-old defenseman has only one goal and three points in 17 games this season, and although goal-scoring and offensive contribution aren’t his main tasks in the Canadiens’ lineup, the team perhaps demands more from him.
On Monday, the Canadiens announced that they had activated Xhekaj off the injured reserve and, with immediate effect, assigned him to the team’s AHL affiliate, the Laval Rocket.
The news came as a big surprise for Canadiens fans, but now, former NHL enforcer Georges Laraque has shed some light on what really happened.
According to Laraque, head coach Martin St. Louis openly criticized Xhekaj after a loss earlier this season. Allegedly, he was furious about Xhekaj taking too many penalties and made a request for him to change his game.
And now, it seems like St. Louis’ patience with Xhekaj has run out, and as a result, he’s been sent to the AHL.
Georges Laraque, who spoke about this on BPM Sports Radio, said that this could lead to Xhekaj asking for a trade, and there shouldn’t be a shortage of interest out there for ’The Sheriff,’ as he’s called in Montreal.
”I’m telling you, it starts with this (the demotion to the AHL), and I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t finish the year in Montreal,” Laraque said.