Alexandre Texier's meteoric rise was well-chronicled.
The Frenchman was picked in the second round of the 2017 NHL Draft from the relatively obscure French professional league, then shot up the ranks, performing well in Finland's Liiga and the AHL before getting his first shot in the NHL as a 19-year old less than two years later. To say he was ahead of schedule would be an understatement. He scored in his second regular-season game, then scored twice in the playoffs shortly thereafter.
But his age 20 and 21 season's were underwhelming in comparison, and, while he's still quite young (he'll be 22 when the next season begins), is what we've seen from Texier over the past two years what we can expect going forward?
If you combine the past two years, Texier played effectively one 'full' NHL season, posting 10-18-28 in 85 games. He particularly struggled during this Covid-shortened season, as he finished the season with 0-9-9 in his final 42 games of the season, while averaging a healthy 15:30 TOI.
But what's troubling isn't the lack of production; it's that we know the potential. Look no further than his start to the 2021 season, where he came out of the gates flying to the tune of 4-2-6 in his first seven games. Then came the freefall.
There are several obvious factors that could have limited his production. First and foremost was the potentially round hole square peg fit of playing Texier at center. Yes, this franchise is desperate for centers. And yes, he was drafted to be a center. But is he a center long-term? Management and the coaches seem to think so, but his career 35.7% faceoff win rate and his overall lack of offensive production could signal he may be a better fit on the wing, where he'd have fewer/easier defensive responsibilities.
The other factor that could have limited his offensive numbers was the staunchly defense-first system deployed by the coaching staff. Nobody put up particularly strong offensive numbers this year, but zero goals in 40+ consecutive games is still an eye-opener.
Aside from the sheer lack of output, John Tortorella was critical of Texier (and other young players) and went as far as to question his effort in a late-season game.
Texier did have his moments of brilliance, however, and therein lies the conundrum. He's simply too young, too talented, too raw to write off. At the same time, for this team to take a step in the right direction, players like Texier must take their individual games to a higher level.
Luckily for Texier, regression to the mean should benefit him. His 5v5 on-ice shooting percentage was 6.93%, even lower than his already-low 7.33% in 2019-20. Similarly, his 5v5 on-ice save percentage dropped from 93.33% to 92.07%, per NaturalStatTrick. 'Luck' aside, Texier found himself starting more shifts in the defensive zone (10.8 per 60 minutes) in 2021 vs. 2020 (6.6), while his offensive zone starts/60 went from 12 to 8.3. Simply being put in fewer offensive situations, with worse linemates, at a position that was an uphill battle, all contributed to his difficult season.
Worst case scenario is Texier is a third-line type player, but we've seen enough to expect more. Put succinctly, Texier needs to have a bounce-back season in 2021-22, and this team needs centers, so Texier improving is key. And statistically speaking, his numbers should improve just by virtue of regression. But even still, Texier may be running out of runway to turn his game into an offensively impactful player in the NHL.