Alexandre Texier arrived with a bang.
He landed in North America, headed to Cleveland, and within a few weeks he was in the Stanley Cup Playoffs at 19 years old. For a player that was relatively anonymous to many hockey fans before the postseason began, his performance was as impressive as it was surprising.
But the Blue Jackets think he has another level or two. Clearly.
When Texier's name landed on the club's roster for the NHL Prospects Tournament, it raised a few eyebrows. A player with his credentials can sometimes get a pass straight through to training camp, but there's a method to the Blue Jackets' madness here. They need Texier to be more than a winger in 2019-20; they need help at center ice, and they need playmaking at that position. Alexander Wennberg has struggled. Pierre-Luc Dubois is a lock on the top line.
And beyond that, there's been little scoring from the middle of the ice...which is problematic.
Jarmo Kekalainen and John Tortorella wanted to see if Texier could do it. While it's only a prospects tournament and there's a long way to go, the early returns from Texier's Traverse City performance were strong.
He was one of the best players in the tournament, and was the Blue Jackets' offensive leader. Texier looked the part of an NHL player: confident, strong on the puck, assertive and creative with his decision-making. If you were a member of the Blue Jackets' front office watching Texier last weekend, you had to be encouraged.
"He's got the total package," an NHL scout told 1st Ohio Battery. "He can really shoot the puck, but (in Traverse City) he showed he can play center and create plays in traffic. And most importantly, I think, is he brings a lot of edge and competitiveness. That's something you want on your team."
Texier was trending in the right direction before the Blue Jackets brought him to North America this spring. He finished a stellar season with KalPa in Finland, where he totaled 14 goals and 27 assists in 55 games and was an impact player right off the bat in Cleveland. Kekalainen couldn't keep Texier with the Monsters for long, and believed he could help the Blue Jackets as they pushed for a playoff spot.
He was right.
Flash forward to this past week, and again, we were reminded how good Texier can be. Monsters coach Mike Eaves, who coached the prospects in Traverse City, used Texier as the team's No. 1 center and gave management a long look. Turns out it was a pretty darn good look, too.
Monsters coach Mike Eaves on Alexandre Texier after the game: "I havent seen all the teams play but if theres a better forward in the tournament, I havent seen him." #CBJ— Jeff Svoboda (@JacketsInsider) September 10, 2019
The rise of Texier couldn't come at a better time for the Blue Jackets, who (as we mentioned), desperately need two things to happen: first, to get Alexander Wennberg back on track. Second, to get more offense from their forwards – particularly after the departures of Artemi Panarin and Matt Duchene. Texier figures to factor in to both of these, as a player who can push Wennberg and perhaps take his job and also contribute offensively at a time when the Blue Jackets could use it.
"He plays with a type of arrogance that, for the age of the kid, it's pretty impressive," Tortorella said of Texier.
The Blue Jackets have seen three phases, so to speak, of Texier thus far: his initial burst upon joining the NHL club, then a dip-into-the-abyss in the second round against the Boston Bruins, and now a dominant performance in Traverse City.
As they get set to open training camp this week with opportunity ripe for several players, perhaps no player is staring down a bigger one than Texier.