There was arguably no one playing better hockey than Alexandre Texier when he abruptly got injured and then took a leave of absence from the Columbus Blue Jackets during the 2021-22 season.
In 36 games that season, Texier set career highs in goals (11) and points (20) before a fractured finger against the Calgary Flames in January. He was granted a leave of absence in March due to personal reasons.
#CBJ general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said he expects Alexandre Texier to return to the team after missing the end of last season for personal reasons. "He was probably our best forward at the time," Jarmo said.— Jeff Svoboda (@JacketsInsider) July 23, 2022
He played for a team in Europe last season and is officially back in the fold for the upcoming 2023-24 season in Columbus.
What Can Blue Jackets Expect Upon Alexandre Texier's Return?
He was away from the NHL for over a year yet the 23-year-old is still young and was able to stay in hockey shape away from his NHL tenure.
On loan to the ZSC Lions of Switzerland, Texier scored 35 points (13 goals, 22 assists) in 46 games and five points (two goals, three assists) in nine games during their playoff run. Texier also played internationally for France, including at the World Championship.
We'll have to wait to see how quickly Texier gets his NHL legs back and if he can pick up where he left off with the Blue Jackets, but there's no reason to think right now that he can't be a middle-six forward that can provide the consistent offensive contribution we saw a few seasons ago.
The Jackets won't need him to be their best forward, and if he is, it means other players are injured or slumping. Or Texier has become the type of player most probably didn't expect.
Where Will He Play?
If it seems like we ask this question every week, it's because the question applies to nearly every player we talk about. But the question applies: Will Texier play at center or wing, and where in the lineup?
In Dan Dukart's roster analysis series, he had this blurb in his article about Texier possibly being a first-line candidate:
Texier remains arguably the club's biggest wildcard. He could conceivably play anywhere from third to first line, and it's hard to say with much conviction what his best landing spot is given that we haven't seen him play in the NHL in over a year. Putting Texier on the first line, alongside Gaudreau and Jenner, would give the line just enough offensive firepower to be dangerous, but would also allow one of Johnson or Marchenko to play on the third line, which could be a mismatch for opposing defenses.
As Dukart said when assessing the second line, Texier is a versatile piece that can play pretty much anywhere in the lineup:
When discussing the third line, I alluded to Texier being a versatile piece that can play basically any position in the lineup. I think that may serve him well when it comes to this line.
He's truly a wild card.
What's His Potential?
Over 123 career NHL games, Texier has 49 points (22 goals, 27 assists) dating back to 2018-19 when he broke onto the scene late in the Blue Jackets season.
We waited on the potential rise of being a legitimate NHL player but he only played 36 games in 2019-20 and 49 games in 2020-21 before he began to emerge and break out in 2021-22.
So while the verdict is unknown, he was on pace for 45 points and 25 goals two seasons ago. If he can provide those numbers, that's a steal for the Blue Jackets in the middle-to-bottom six of the lineup.
Texier is another experienced forward to add to the fray. Many players on the roster come with questions surrounding them and their position. While Texier is no different, the excess depth and potential are at play.
Earlier this off-season, it felt as if general manager Jarmo Kekalainen might look to trade away from his surplus of forwards and defensemen. Yet, as we get closer to September and training camp, it looks like the idea is to go to camp with everyone and let the players make the case for who ultimately plays where and in what position.