FOUR BULLDOGS SELECTED IN 2023 NHL DRAFT
With the NHL Draft festivities in full force in Nashville, the Brantford Bulldogs matched a franchise highwater mark with 4 players selected, equaling the franchise’s 2017 NHL Draft results. Nick Lardis, Florian Xhekaj, Patrick Thomas, and Cole Brown each heard their names called on June 29th, seeing their hard work and dedication rewarded.
Nick Lardis was the first Bulldog off the board in the 2023 NHL Draft when the Chicago Blackhawks selected him in the 3rd round with the 67th overall pick. Lardis’ season took off following his January 7th deal from Peterborough to Hamilton, where after starting the season with 12 goals & 7 assists for 19 points in 36 games, the lightning quick left shooting right winger ignited with 25 goals & 21 assists for 46 points in 33 games with the Bulldogs. Lardis took another step forward in the playoffs where he led the Bulldogs with 5 goals & 5 assists for 10 points in 6 games, showing on the ice his top-notch leadership qualities in the process. At the top of the fitness testing leaderboard at both the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game and the NHL Scouting Combine, Lardis brings an impressive skill set with a leader’s mentality to the Blackhawks where he’ll join former Bulldogs captain MacKenzie Entwistle and 2023 1st overall selection Connor Bedard as part of a very impressive young & developing core.
In another incredible chapter of the Florian Xhekaj story, the 2022 OHL undrafted free agent signing by the Bulldogs was selected in the 4th round, 101st overall by the Montreal Canadiens, joining older brother and 2022 OHL Champion Arber with the Canadiens in the process. After tearing up the GOJHL with the Pelham Panthers in the 2021-22 season where he led his team in scoring by double digits, Xhekaj took the big step to the OHL where the power forward split time between center and wing, potting 13 goals, adding 12 assists for 25 total points while bringing an imposing physical presence leading the Bulldogs with 76 PIMs. Though charting his own impressive path and telling his own improbable success story, the younger Xhekaj will undoubtedly be excited to join his older brother in Montreal and make it a family affair that has a bit of a fairy tale touch to it.
After going undrafted in 2022, Patrick Thomas returned to the Bulldogs for the 2022-23 season and took his game to yet another level leading to the Washington Capitals selecting him in the 4th round, 104th overall. Utilizing some of the highest hockey IQ in the OHL, combined with slick passing hands and a sneaky shot Patrick Thomas earned his selection leading the Bulldogs in scoring with 17 goals & 39 assists for 56 points in 66 games while creating a tremendous chemistry with the arriving Nick Lardis. Having skated on lines over the past two seasons with the likes of Mason McTavish, Ryan Winterton, Logan Morrison, Avery Hayes and now the aforementioned Lardis and fellow mid-season arrival Sahil Panwar, the constant has been clear, wherever Patrick Thomas goes, production will follow.
Cole Brown made it a quartet of Bulldogs selected when the New Jersey Devils made him the 164th overall pick in the 6th round. The towering sniper took major strides forward in the 2022-23 season, doubling his rookie output where he posted 9 goals & 12 assists for 21 points, by posting 17 goals & 25 assists for 42 points while taking on a much bigger role in the Bulldogs lineup. The 6’3” left-winger showed the ability to both score from anywhere in the offensive zone as well as use his size to drive the net and make himself a problem for opposing defenses to have to handle. With a knack for scoring timely goals, Brown continues to impress with his instincts and will continue to become a bigger part of the Bulldogs future with an eye to the Garden State in his future.
The Brantford Bulldogs are incredibly proud of Nick, Florian, Patrick & Cole and are excited for this opportunity to celebrate their success as they achieve a large step in their career in being drafted to the National Hockey League.