In the last seven years, general manager Jarmo Kekalainen has made his mark very clear in the Columbus Blue Jackets management as well as the roster. Whether it be his impressive drafting record, trades, or free agents, Kekalainen’s idea for what a Blue Jackets’ player should look like is riddled through the lineup.
Kekalainen’s draft picks in recent years have seen an influx of potential long-lasting core players with smart, hard-working character — guys like Pierre-Luc Dubois, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Zach Werenski, Elvis Merzlikins, as well as Emil Bemstrom and Liam Foudy. However, one player to keep an eye on is 21-year-old French forward Alexandre Texier.
Texier has often been noticeable on teams he’s played for. Whether that be in France’s Ligue Magnus as an underage player or on Finland’s KalPa Kuopio in the SM-Liiga, it has been Texier’s elite skating, playmaking, and competitiveness that has popped at NHL scouts.
Here’s Texier’s rise to the NHL and what this past season meant for his development moving forward:
Tout Droit Sorti de France
Before ultimately earning time in his first season in France’s top league of Ligue Magnus at the age of 17 during the 2016-17 season, Texier demolished French competition as an underage player with at least a point or two points-per-game rate each season. He was the first legitimate NHL prospect to come out of Ligue Magnus in their 111-year old history.
In Texier’s first and only season in Ligue Magnus as a 17-year-old, he totaled 10 goals and nine assists in 40 games in the regular season, and was an impact player in the postseason tallying five goals and five assists in 12 games.
Texier’s achievements were well known going into the 2017 NHL Draft and he finished at 16th overall amongst European skaters in the NHL Central Scouting final draft rankings — a substantial rise of 23 spots from 39th in the midterm rankings.
With all the potential and hype surrounding Texier, he was already mentioned in the same breath as some of the greatest French-born players. Players like Philippe Bozon, Pierre-Eduoard Bellemare, Antoine Roussel, and Cristobal Huet.
From Europe to North America
Midway through the second round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, the Blue Jackets traded prospect Keegan Kolesar to the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for the 45th overall pick in the draft, which Kekalainen used to select Texier.
Texier wasn’t physically mature enough for the NHL and needed a few years to develop, so he took his talents to Finland’s KalPa Kuopio of the SM-Liiga. In his first year, he logged 13 goals and nine assists in 53 games while adjusting to his first action in a formidable professional ice hockey league.
Kekalainen, banking on the potential that was seen in Texier’s first year in the SM-Liiga, signed the French forward to a three-year, entry-level contract on May 22, 2018. Kekalainen looked for Texier to take another step before coming to North America and he didn’t disappoint.
Texier finished his second and final season in KalPa Kuopio with 14 goals, 27 assists, and 41 points in 55 games. He led the team in assists and points and was just two goals shy from being the goal leader at just 18 years old. With his season over and the Blue Jackets inching closer to the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Kekalainen sought for Texier to take the next step to North America.
Steps Taken in the NHL
Upon coming from Europe to North America, Texier got his first opportunity when he was assigned to the American Hockey League’s Cleveland Monsters in mid-March. He seized the opportunity, scoring five goals and seven points in seven games before being called up for his first taste of NHL action on April 5, 2019.
Texier got to make his NHL debut against the New York Rangers in Madison Square Garden. Although he created many chances and looked effective and confident, he didn’t register a point. However, the following night in Ottawa, Texier snapped his first NHL goal past Anders Nilsson off a pass from Bjorkstrand late in the second period of an eventual 6-2 win.
The Blue Jackets then were tasked to face the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning and swept them out of the playoffs. Texier scored two goals in the clinching game, finishing the series with two goals and three points in four games. However, when the Blue Jackets played the Bruins in the next round, Texier was held pointless and looked physically overwhelmed in a series that the team would eventually lose in six games.
Despite the second-round exit, the Blue Jackets were still optimistic about what Texier could bring to the team moving forward. He was looking to make an impact and excel in his first crack at a full NHL season with 2019-20 approaching.
Throughout the 2019-20 season, Texier battled a few injuries, but none were more costly than the lumbar stress fracture that he endured playing the Florida Panthers on New Year’s Eve that kept him out long into the summer during the NHL’s COVID-19 pandemic pause.
Before the injury, Texier had flashes of brilliance but durability was the issue. He finished the regular season with six goals, seven assists, and 13 points in 36 games for the Blue Jackets. As the season was planning to return for a 24-team playoff format, Texier was activated off of injured reserve to potentially play in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Wait Is On For Next Season
Even though Texier’s 2020 Playoffs’ stat line isn’t impressive with just four assists in 10 games, he looked more comfortable and assertive than ever playing alongside Dubois, Bjorkstrand, and even Foudy. Texier was used in all situations by Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella and it showed with an average 21:52 time-on-ice per game.
With his recent play, Texier is establishing himself a top-six talent in the NHL and could move to center from the wing in either next season or the season after. For now, while waiting for the NHL season to start in late December or early January, NHL teams have been loaning players to other leagues to gain experience and keep conditioning up during a strangely-timed NHL offseason.
Earlier this month, the Blue Jackets announced that Texier, along with Bemstrom and goaltender Veini Vehvilainen would be loaned to clubs in Finland’s SM-Liiga until the NHL season starts and training camps open.
That move marks the return of Texier to KalPa Kuopio as a potential star forward for the Blue Jackets at the age of 21. He will no doubt use his experience in KalPa to be ready for a healthy, breakout season with the Blue Jackets in 2021.