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First Round

Texier brings youthful innocence, swagger to playoffs with Blue Jackets

19-year-old forward fits in, helps Columbus take 2-0 lead in series with Lightning

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

TAMPA, Fla. -- Alexandre Texier's friends back home in Grenoble, France all want to know the same thing.

"They just love the big stars here in the NHL, so they always talk about [Artemi] Panarin," said Texier, the Columbus Blue Jackets rookie forward. "They ask me if he's good or not."

Panarin, the Blue Jackets big star, is what they know about Texier's life now. The rest of it, a 19-year-old living in North America, an NHLer for eight days and already a veteran of two Stanley Cup Playoff games, both wins, they really have no clue what that is like.

 

[RELATED: Complete Lightning vs. Blue Jackets series coverage]

 

In many ways, Texier has no clue either, and that's the beauty of him right now.

Everything is happening so fast for Texier that he hasn't had time yet to take stock, to fully comprehend the fact that he's living his dream six months before his 20th birthday (Sept. 13) and that his team is up stunningly up 2-0 on the Presidents' Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference First Round.

Game 3 will be played at Nationwide Arena on Sunday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SUN, FS-O, SN360, TVAS).

"Just play hockey, have fun, you know," Texier said. "Nobody knows me in this league, so that's pretty good for me. I just want to play."

Video: Duchene tallies four points, leads Jackets to victory

Texier barely knows anyone too, including on his own team. He hadn't even heard of most of the players on the Blue Jackets before he was called up from Cleveland of the American Hockey League on April 4.

He met center Pierre-Luc Dubois at development camp in 2017, days after Columbus took Texier with the No. 45 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. Ironically, their dads, Eric Dubois and Fabrice Texier, played together for four games with the Laval Titan of the QMJHL in 1986-87. 

Texier and Dubois are now road roommates.

"Small world," Dubois said.

Other than that, Texier had heard of Panarin, but not Nick Foligno and Oliver Bjorkstrand, his linemates. He hadn't really heard of anybody else, in fact.

"At some point he'll get familiar with everything, familiar with the guys he's playing against and all that," Dubois said. "For now, it's kind of that innocence."

It's an innocence that has served Texier and the Blue Jackets well so far.

Take, for example, Texier's first NHL game. 

April 5, one day after he was recalled. Against the New York Rangers. At Madison Square Garden. A playoff berth on the line. His parents flying to New York from France to be at the game.

Pressure? What pressure?

Texier had a scoring chance early in the game. He finished with three shots on goal and two hits. The Blue Jackets won in a shootout to clinch.

"It was pretty good," Texier deadpanned. "They needed something here, so they just called me and I'm ready for everything. It was great. Big rink."

Texier scored the next night against the Ottawa Senators. 

Columbus coach John Tortorella was impressed. He still is.

"No nervousness," Tortorella said. "At least with this guy here there are no nerves at all."

Video: CBJ@OTT: Texier scores on rush for first NHL goal

Tortorella has quickly gained enough faith in Texier that he put him on the ice with Josh Anderson and Foligno for the center-ice face-off after Seth Jones' go-ahead power-play goal with 5:55 remaining in Game 1 knowing the Lightning would likely counter with Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov.

"I just watch him, I think he's a very intelligent player," Tortorella said. "I think he's one of our better guys on the wall as far as making simple plays. I just feel comfortable that he's not overwhelmed. He isn't. … I can put him in all situations."

The Blue Jackets are Texier's third team in three leagues this season. 

He played the full season with KalPa in Liiga, Finland's top professional league, and had 41 points (14 goals, 27 assists) in 55 games. KalPa didn't make the playoffs, so the Blue Jackets, who had already signed Texier to an entry-level contract last year, brought him to North America last month and placed him in the AHL with Cleveland.

Texier had seven points (five goals, two assists) in seven AHL games. It was enough to convince the Blue Jackets that he was ready for the NHL and that he could deliver.

They put him in the lineup for Alexander Wennberg against the Rangers. He's there to stay for now.

"Honestly, my only concern was can he handle the physicality?" Foligno said. "He's handled that. He loves it. He actually thrives in it. He can get in there and bump some guys too. I don't have to worry about him at all. It's pretty amazing for a kid like that, there's not a lot of babysitting to do and that says a lot about his IQ and his ability."

It also says a lot about his confidence.

Texier said it took him one, maybe two shifts in Game 1 to shake any nerves and get over the wow factor of being in the playoffs.

He had a great chance to score in the first period after stealing the puck in the offensive zone, but he missed the net. He brushed it off.

"I'll score next game," Texier said to Blue Jackets broadcaster and former NHLer Jody Shelley.

He didn't have a shot on goal in Game 2, a 5-1 Blue Jackets win, so now he probably just thinks he'll score in Game 3 back home in Columbus.

"I love that," Foligno said. "I love his swagger and what he brings to our team, his competitiveness and his youth. He doesn't know any different, so it's fun to watch."

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