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Texier has what it takes to be a difference maker for the Blue Jackets

A look inside the development of the forward who burst onto the scene late last season

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider /

In all, it seemed a bit improbable as it happened, and it seems a bit improbable as you look back. 

How did Alexandre Texier go from young but talented prospect, learning the ropes of the professional game in Finland, to a key part of the Blue Jackets' first-round playoff upset over Tampa Bay in a span of a few short weeks? 

To some, it might have seemed like the 19-year-old Frenchman came out of nowhere. Sure, he was a highly thought of prospect, but who saw the path from Kuopio, Finland, to Columbus as such a linear one at the most important time of the year? 

It was a quick turnaround to everyone but those in the Blue Jackets organization, who watched Texier go from a youngster who had a lot to learn when he was first drafted but by the end of his time overseas had developed his game into that of a legitimate NHL player. 

Not only that, he had the personality to handle the situation. Never lacking for confidence, Texier didn't let the moment overwhelm him. In fact, it seemed to energize him as he displayed a poise beyond his years during his late-season cameo. 

Video: Tex chats with Jody at Dev Camp

Now, he appears to be one of the next great Blue Jackets building blocks, a player whose offensive abilities and competitiveness could make him a fan favorite for the foreseeable future.  

"He's a very good guy, a hard-working guy, but in a positive way he has a little French attitude in him, which I like a lot. He wants to be the difference maker," Blue Jackets European development coach Jarkko Ruutu said. "He's an energetic player. I think he's going to be a hell of a player for Columbus for a long time -- and there's still so much untapped potential. He's just scratching the surface right now. In a few years, he'll be fun. He can be a very good player." 

With that in mind, talked to those involved in Texier's development over his two years in the Jackets' organization to see how he rose up the ranks. It had to do with a good player sticking to a good plan, but there's also an added element. 

It's that magic elixir of belief that Texier seems to exude. Ask him if his swift rise was overwhelming in any way, and he replies in a way that suggests it's exactly what he expected all along.

"I played a lot of games, it was good, but I don't really like to say it was a crazy year," Texier said of last season. "I want to play in the NHL, so I don't want to look back and say, 'Wow, it was crazy.' It's just how it is if you're a good player. Now I just forget about that and try to focus on the offseason." 

From the beginning 

One underrated fact about Texier's rise and development -- having been born on Sept. 13, 1999, he is two days away from the annual Sept. 15 cutoff for what is considered the start of each birth year cycle in hockey prospect circles. 

In other words, had he been born two days later, he wouldn't have been eligible for the draft until a year later, making him one of the youngest players in his draft year. Texier was just 17 years old in June 2017 when the Blue Jackets made a move up to select him 45th overall. 

While France isn't exactly known as a hotbed of NHL talent -- Texier is just the 12th French-born player to make it to the NHL -- he was a highly thought of prospect, having been ranked the No. 16 European skater in the draft by NHL Central Scouting.  

Texier, whose dad Fabrice played professional hockey in his home country, grew up in Grenoble, a city of more than 160,000 in southeastern France at the foot of the Alps that is known for its winter sports. He played for Grenoble's junior teams until 2016-17, when as a 17-year-old he played in 40 games for the big club with 19 points and 69 penalty minutes. 

The Blue Jackets saw him as a potential first-round talent, and the team traded prospect Keegan Kolesar to Vegas to move up to take Texier in the second round.  

From there, he moved from France to Finland, heading to KalPa Kuopio. It was a transition on the ice and off, as Texier's mother Carole moved with him to the Nordic country as he got his professional career under way. 

On the ice, the biggest adjustment was one faced by many talented young offensive players, whose junior careers largely consist of getting the puck and trying to score -- learning to play defense. KalPa coach Sami Kapanen, who spent 12 years in the NHL, wasn't afraid to staple Texier to the bench when his defensive game wasn't up to snuff.  

"I learned fast," Texier said. "My first year, I came from France and I never learned how to play defense. But if you want to play in this league and you want to be better, you have to play defense. That's the thing I learned the most. When you don't play defense, you're not going to play." 

Amid the transition, Texier's goal-scoring prowess was still present. In 53 games for KalPa, he finished with 13 goals and 22 points as an 18-year-old in a foreign land. 

He went into his second season coming off shoulder surgery, and as a result Texier got off to a bit of a slow start. But by the end of the year, he was one of the top players in Finland.  

At the trade deadline, Texier was one of three Blue Jackets prospets -- along with Swedish forward Emil Bemstrom and London Knights center Liam Foudy -- general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said was essentially untouchable on the trade block. By the end of the season, he was wearing the gold helmet as KalPa's leading scorer with 14 goals and 41 points in 55 games.  

"His development skyrocketed in my opinion," Kekalainen said. "He had a bit of a slow start because he had shoulder surgery in the offseason. He came back quicker than we thought, so he struggled a little bit out of the gate, and 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." 

For Ruutu, who saw Texier play a number of times during the past two seasons while serving as the Blue Jackets' development coach for its European prospects, Texier's final game in Finland stands out. KalPa was out of a playoff spot, and Texier knew he'd be heading across the Atlantic to join the Blue Jackets' organization shortly after the game. 

Yet he still played one of his best games of the season. Texier scored in regulation during a 3-3 game, then in overtime, he took the puck in his own zone, skated all the way down the ice, and then fired a wrist shot past the goalie from the left circle to get the win. 

The play encapsulated what Texier had done well in the latter half of the season, leaving him ready to head to North America. While Ruutu praised the prospect's hockey intelligence and commitment to backchecking that had built in his two years in Finland, the intangible of self-belief was also instrumental. 

"He was very confident. I think that was a big part of it," Ruutu said. "If he hadn't been playing as well, it would have been much tougher (to transition to North America), but he finished strong. I was at his last game at Kuopio and he scored an overtime winner and scored twice -- he was really good. I talked to him and said, 'Just leave your mark. It's not a meaningless game because you can leave your mark,' and that was a great way to finish for him." 

For Texier's part, looking back, he can see how the move to Finland helped his game reach new heights, especially when it came to playing the 200-foot game he'd need. 

"My second year, I came to Finland and said, 'I need to be a top player,'" Texier said. "I had a tough time, but the coach in Finland, Sami Kapanen, just helped me every time. With every young guy, sometimes you have tough times. He's hard with you, but that's good. Now I look back on my two years in Finland, it was good. It was a great experience." 

Heading to North America 

The Blue Jackets knew they had a prospect who had grown by leaps and bounds in Finland, but the reality is you don't know how any young player will make the adjustment to the North American game until it happens. 

But when Texier hopped on a plane to fly across the Atlantic a day after his season ended in Finland, he possessed skills that promised to make that transition easier than it would appear. His quickness and agility figured to help him on the smaller rink, and his persistent physical nature on pucks and high battle level were underrated skills he could put to use in the North American game.

Still, it was probably a surprise when Texier bolted out of the starting blocks once he joined Cleveland. He tallied in three straight games in one weekend to announce his presence, then had two goals in his seventh game with the Monsters. At that point, with five goals in seven AHL games, there was little doubt he had the game for North America. 

With that in mind, the Blue Jackets made the decision to call Texier up to the big club April 4. One day later, the Jackets would take the ice against the New York Rangers in need of a win to clinch a third consecutive playoff spot.  

Texier didn't look out of place in that game, though he didn't get in the scoresheet in the shootout victory that sent Columbus to the postseason. One night later in Ottawa, Texier did have his first NHL goal, scoring in the second period on an odd-man rush to extend the team's lead to 4-2. 

Then came the postseason, where head coach John Tortorella had no issues with putting the team's youngest player on the ice for the series against a Tampa Bay team that won 62 games in the regular season. 

"He is not nervous," Tortorella said. "He played with a bit of arrogance that for the age of the kid is pretty impressive. You can see he has intelligence for the game. He is physical when he needs to be. He is engaged on pucks, so he's impressive." 

Texier went on to tally three points in the sweep of the Lightning, and all were crucial. In Game 3, he had an assist on the game-winning, power-play goal by Oliver Bjorkstrand, then he tallied on the power play to start the scoring in Game 4. Later, he was a big part of the celebration as he scored one of the three empty-net goals that clinched the game and series win. 

Video: TBL@CBJ, Gm4: Texier snipes early power-play goal

"The better players, the better they play against, the more effective they are," Ruutu said. "The higher quality of players, the more effective he is." 

Texier was kept off the score sheet against a more physical Boston team in a series that turned into a war of attrition, but in his time on the ice at the end of the season, it's clear he showed he could be the kind of threat the Blue Jackets can build around for the future.  

That future could come as early as this season, as Texier will have every chance to make the Columbus roster coming out of training camp. To that end, he said this offseason is to be used to get better at all aspects of his game, and his goal is to make the Blue Jackets for opening night. 

At the same time, he's made it clear he's not spending too much time thinking about his late-season success a year ago. In fact, it hardly comes as a surprise. It's part of a youthful enthusiasm that has him ready to go when he comes back to Columbus this fall. 

"I think it's easier," Texier said when asked if it was tough to step up in competition throughout the season. "In this game here you're young, first time, I just played my hockey and had fun and you don't have to live up to any pressure. Just play hockey and enjoy every moment; especially in the playoffs, it was crazy. I enjoyed every moment here." 

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