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Texier makes NHL debut with Blue Jackets

19-year-old forward impressive in first outing vs. Rangers

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

As it turns out, the Blue Jackets can't keep Alexandre Texier off the ice. 

Less than three weeks after the 19-year-old French forward made his AHL debut with the Cleveland Monsters, Columbus recalled Texier and he played his first game for the Blue Jackets on Friday night vs. the New York Rangers. 

"We just think he has played so well," head coach John Tortorella said of his seven-game trial with the Monsters. "If this was a guy that was down in the minors and the reports come back and say, 'He's OK,' we don't do this, but he has been that good.

"Just the way he carries himself I think is very important. He carries himself with the right type of confidence. I'm certainly not afraid of this and I don't think he is either."

Tweet from @monstershockey: "Yes hello, 911? Please send help, @atexier99 IS ON FIRE!" pic.twitter.com/03z3ndiJCR

Texier didn't look out of place at all in the game, skating 11:49 with three shots on goal in the shootout victory that cliched a playoff spot for the Blue Jackets.

"It feels pretty good," he said. "It's a big win for us and I feel pretty good right now. It was a pretty good win. I really wanted the win for the team to make the playoffs. I was so excited after that. It's really nice."

When Texier came over from Finland at the end of his season there, the hope was simply just to see what he could bring to the table at the North American level. Five goals in seven games later, the 2017 second-round draft pick showed he's ready for the big time in the eyes of Blue Jackets brass. 

It's a continuation of what he did with KalPa of the Finnish Liiga. After a slow start, perhaps the result of offseason surgery, he finished as the team's leading scorer with 14 goals, 27 assists and 41 points in 55 games. Still, he didn't expect to make such a quick impact upon his arrival in North America.

"I was focused on my season in Finland, and that's it," said Texier, whose parents flew in from France for the game. "It was a bonus for me (to join the Blue Jackets) because they are a pretty good team and they want to make the playoffs, so I didn't expect anything."

With Cleveland, he had goals in three consecutive games over the March 22-24 weekend, then had two goals in Wednesday night's victory for the Monsters. He also had two assists for seven points in seven games and was plus-6 with the Monsters.

"I'm excited for the kid," Tortorella said. "It's a young league. Why not put him in there? At this point in time, this is what we think is our best lineup playing right now."

When asked earlier this year how Texier has developed the past two seasons, Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen did not hesitate.  

"I think beyond expectations," he said. "We felt like we gave up a pretty good prospect in Keegan Kolesar to acquire the 45th pick (in that 2017 draft, which was used on Texier). He had a good year in the Finnish league as an 18-year-old, but then this year, it accelerated. His development skyrocketed, in my opinion.  

"He had a little bit of a slow start because he had shoulder surgery in the offseason and he missed the first five games of the year. He struggled a little bit at the start, then after that, he's been a point-per-game player in the Finnish league, which is hard to do. He's a pleasure to watch." 

As for Texier's skill set, he scored in a variety of ways since arriving in Cleveland. He's showed a good hockey sense to get to the right spots on the ice for rebounds and also to sneak behind the defense to earn scoring chances, and his wrist shot has overpowered AHL goaltenders to this point. 

Tweet from @monstershockey: Whoomp! There it is! pic.twitter.com/hjiTVvKNcp--

With Columbus in his debut, he showed plenty of poise on the puck and an ability to get open and make plays in the offensive zone, and he nearly was rewarded with a goal in the first period were it not for an excellent save by Rangers goalie Alexandar Georgiev. He also showed he's not afraid to play physical when the situation calls for it.

All of that is one reason why Texier was one of three prospects -- along with Swedish forward Emil Bemström and London Knights forward Liam Foudy -- Kekalainen said teams were inquiring about at the trade deadline but the team would not move under any circumstances.  

"He brings a lot," Kekalainen said. "He's a good playmaker, he's a good passer, he's got a great wrist shot, he's a good skater, he sets the pace for the game, he has great speed. There's a lot of good things about him." 

The Blue Jackets under Kekalainen and Tortorella haven't shied away from inserting a young player in a playoff race if they think he can help. Two seasons ago, defenseman Gabriel Carlsson played the last two regular season games after finishing his season in Sweden, then was on the ice for all five of the team's playoff games in a first-round series vs. Pittsburgh. 

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