He's still got a list of things to improve, but French-born center Alexandre Texier is making good progress as a Blue Jackets prospect.
After completing his first season for KalPa in the Finnish league (Liiga), the 18-year old from Grenoble, France recently wrapped up a stint playing for France in the 2018 IIHF Men's World Championship - contributing three assists in seven games and ascending to the role of second-line center.
Tuesday, he took another step toward the NHL by signing a three-year, entry-level contract with the Blue Jackets, whose hockey-operations department has watched him closely this season.
"He's a good playmaker," said general manager Jarmo Kekalainen, who watched Texier in person at the world championship in Copenhagen, Denmark. "He has a good shot, he sees the ice, he's a creative offensive player, a good passer and will be a good center iceman, I think. He needs to work on face-offs, like any European centerman coming over to this side, but I'm sure that he recognizes that as well."
PRESS RELEASE: Jackets Sign Texier to Three-Year Entry-Level Contract
Texier, who's listed at 6-foot, 185 pounds, was selected by Columbus in the 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago. The Blue Jackets, who didn't have a first-round pick, traded up to get him with the 45th overall pick.
It was a statement in itself about what the Jackets feel Texier's ceiling might be, after he impressed scouts by playing professionally for his hometown team in France in 2016-17, starting that season at age 16.
He was 17 when he began last season in Finland, after recovering from a shoulder injury that kept him from playing for France in the men's 2017 world championship. Texier, who doesn't turn 19 until Sept. 13, finished with 13 goals, nine assists and 22 points in 53 games for KalPa, adding a goal and assist in six playoff games before joining France for this year's world championship.
"As a young 17-year old, he went from France to Finland, so that's a big move for a guy that age to move into another country, and he did well with that move," Kekalainen said. "That's not always easy as a 17-year old, to move away from home, to a different culture with a different language and everything. So, hats off to him that he decided to make that move, and it was the right move for him. It kind of proves that he wants to get better."
The next step for Texier will be attending the Blue Jackets' development camp, which starts June 24, the day after the 2018 NHL Draft concludes in Dallas. He attended development camp last year, as well, but was unable to do much while still recovering from the shoulder injury.
This year, he's expected to participate in the on-ice segment, which could give the Jackets' front office an even better feel for his progression.
"Foot speed and the pace of the game over here, that's probably the biggest difference, as always, in the NHL compared to the European leagues," Kekalainen said. "He's just got to keep working on that pace and improving his skating."
The beginning of the season in Finland starts earlier than the NHL, in mid-September, so Texier isn't expected to attend the Blue Jackets' training camp and might not be available for the annual prospects tournament in Traverse City, Mich., either.
As of now, he's likely ticketed for a second season in Finland to continue his development into a future NHL center.
"He played well [at the world championship]," Kekalainen said. "He's only 18. It's very encouraging and I think another year in Europe will do good for him, but I saw some very good things in Texier [in Denmark], not that we hadn't seen it earlier already. He had a good year in the Finnish league and that was a continuation of it."