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SvoNotes: 100 games in, Texier making his mark with Blue Jackets

Still just 22, the French forward is showing signs of growth in his game this season

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

It kind of feels like it's impossible that Alexandre Texier is still just 22, right? 

It feels equally unlikely that he just skated in his 100th career NHL game Monday night, capping off the win over the Red Wings with an empty-net exclamation point.

 After all, he's in his fourth season with the Blue Jackets, but each one has had a caveat. He didn't join Columbus until late in the 2018-19 campaign -- real late, in fact, skating in just the last two games and then playing in the postseason. A year later, injuries kept him to 37 games, then came a global pandemic that cut last season short and saw Texier skate in 49 contests. 

The French forward was 19 when he arrived, coming over from Finland having produced impressively for KalPa Kuopio, leading the team in scoring his final season before hopping the Atlantic. The second-round pick then aced his test in Cleveland -- five goals in seven games -- that year before joining the Jackets for the memorable playoff sweep of Tampa Bay, scoring twice in the clinching Game 4 win. 

The sky looked like the limit for Texier at that point, and with 100 games in the books, he has a line of 16 goals and 35 points. Not bad at all, especially for someone who plays a pretty responsible defensive game as well, and he feels like he's getting more and more comfortable and learning more about the game on a daily basis. 

Video: COL@CBJ: Texier ties game late in the 3rd

"I just think I need to play the same way every single night during 82 games and try to fight for your spot every night to be in the lineup and play the same way every night," he said. "I think that's what I've learned. Even if you have a good game or a bad game, you just have to move on after the game. That is one of the hardest things to do in the NHL." 

That's one thing that sounds easy -- you just show up each game and play, right? -- but it's not. It's just like any job. Some days, you show up to work and feel like everything goes right; some days it's the opposite. That's especially true in something as competitive as NHL hockey, where the demands are close to unrelenting.  

"It's tough," Texier said. "Sometimes you play at home, sometimes you're away, against different teams, different moments in the season as well. But that is why you have to calm down a little bit and just focus on your game." 

That's been working for Texier especially well of late. After five pretty nondescript games to start the season -- he scored on the first shift of the year but then had just one shot on goal in the next four games -- he was placed on an energy line with center Sean Kuraly and winger Eric Robinson to go with his usual spot on the penalty kill. 

His game quickly started to round into form from there, as Texier has four goals and an assist since being moved to that spot, not to mention 20 shots on goal. That line has been effective, gaining playing time as the days have gone by, and Texier says playing there has helped bring his game along. 

"The way they play, they play simple, get the puck to the net," he said. "I was like, 'I should do that.' Don't try to do too much, just put the puck to the net and good things will happen, so that's what I'm trying to do. If you look at their game, there's nothing crazy. They are simple, pretty smart, get the puck deep, and I think I am just going to follow them and bring my game with them as well. So it's been fun, yeah." 

With his game on track, Texier expects to contribute even more as time goes by. And at just 22 years old, he points out he's still pretty young, with room to keep on growing. 

"I think I'm getting better," he said. "I've found my game more. I just have to keep going. I think I have more. I know the game a little more right now. I'm 22. I want more, and I just have to keep going. I know what I need to do to play a good game, and now I just have to do it every night, but it's getting better." 

Late Debuts 

Brad Larsen is used to being the bad guy. 

Think about it -- the phrase "coach wants to see you in his office" doesn't usually bring a positive connotation. It's part of the job.

For Larsen, though, Monday was a good day when he got to talk to CBJ forward Justin Danforth and tell the 28-year-old he would be playing in his first NHL game against the Red Wings. 

"I love seeing it," Larsen said. "You deliver a lot of bad news as a head coach, and whenever you get to say, 'Hey, you're in," they hear yes. When you're 28, you've heard a lot of no. So it's a neat thing. They're excited. They're like a kid again. They don't show much, but I know what that feeling is like on the inside." 

It's been a bit of a unique year for Larsen when it comes to delivering news like that to veterans. Danforth is the second 28-year-old to make his NHL debut this season with the Jackets, joining Gregory Hofmann, who has played in every game for the Jackets. 

Their stories are similar but unique. They're from different places -- Danforth is from Oshawa, Ontario, while Hofmann is Swiss -- but each rose to prominence overseas, Danforth in Finland and the KHL and Hofmann in his native Switzerland. 

Both are finally getting the chance to see how their games stack up at the NHL level after their winding roads, and to say making their debuts at such an advanced age is unique is a bit of an understatement. Hofmann, who actually turned 29 over the weekend, is the second oldest player ever to do it with the Jackets, while Danforth is the third oldest. 

The oldest? Finnish goalie Fredrik Norrena, who debuted at 32 years old back in 2006-07.  

Danforth deadpanned, "I would have rather got my first game when I was 19," before the game Monday, but it's safe to say he's happy it finally came. 

"It's something you work your entire life for," he said. 

This Day in CBJ History 

Nov. 17, 2017: Sergei Bobrovsky stops all 36 New York Rangers shots in a 2-0 shutout victory in Nationwide Arena. 

Nov. 17, 2018: Cam Atkinson earns his fifth career hat trick, scoring three goals in a 4-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh. 

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