COLUMBUS — Alexandre Texier made major strides in becoming an NHL player at the end of last season, but the French forward knows there are no guarantees he will make the Columbus Blue Jackets this season.
“There’s not going to be a big spot for me because I played last year,” he said during Columbus development camp in June. “I need to be ready and I need to play my [best] hockey.
“I need to be better than last year, that’s for sure, if I want to make this team. I want to compete this [training] camp. I don’t really like to look back to last season. It’s going to be a new season, new guys. Everything is going to be new me for me still.”
Texier, who turns 20 on Sept. 13, was selected by the Blue Jackets in the second round (No. 45) of the 2017 NHL Draft. He had a meteoric rise last season, from playing for KalPa in Liiga, Finland’s top professional league, to getting seven points (five goals, two assists) in seven games for Cleveland of the America Hockey League in his first North American hockey experience, to making his NHL debut April 5 against the New York Rangers.
He scored his first NHL goal the next night against the Ottawa Senators in the regular-season finale and had three points (two goals, one assist) in eight Stanley Cup Playoff games.
The Eastern Conference Second Round against the Boston Bruins was an eye-opener for Texier (6-foot, 187 pounds), who appeared overwhelmed at times and was scratched for Game 3 and Game 5.
“That was the series I learned the most,” Texier said. “In this league, you play physical. It was different for me, but it was good to have some tough times during the season and it was a tough time for me and the team.
“I’m going to learn from that. I’ll work out in the gym, get stronger in my legs and upper body too. It helps me for the long run.”
Blue Jackets director of player personnel Chris Clark said Texier can handle the rough stuff in the NHL after watching his first pro game with Cleveland.
“I don’t know if it was naive or the way he plays because he was cross-checking guys, he was sticking guys,” Clark said. “That was 100 percent what I wasn’t thinking was going to happen. He did it up here in the playoffs too. That’s his game, which is awesome. He can skate and get under guys’ skin. He has the ability to do both.”
Texier, who can play wing and was a center before joining KalPa, said he knows what he must do to earn time in the NHL.
“You’re going to have some offense and you’re going to have some ice time,” he said. “But the one thing I learned here is to play defense, because if you don’t play defense you’re not going to play. It’s the same way in Finland too.
“Every time you step on the ice you have to think about playing great defense.”