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Jackson, Texeira tabbed NHL draft prospects

 

Texeira (3)[2]

By Chris Bayee

The co-captains went their separate ways in the fall of 2013 – Keoni Texeira to the Western Hockey League (WHL) and Robby Jackson to the United States Hockey League (USHL). But if NHL Central Scouting’s “Players to Watch” list is to be believed the former LA Selects and Los Angeles Jr. Kings teammates could see their paths cross again.

The scouting outfit rates both as “C” prospects, which projects to being drafted between the fourth and sixth rounds in next summer’s Entry Draft. There is a lot of hockey to be played between now and then, but both players are coming of seasons that indicate immense upside.

The 5-foot-9, 175-pound Jackson set the USHL scoring record for 16-year-olds with 28 goals last season for the Chicago Steel and was selected the league’s rookie of the year.

“First off, his hockey sense is brilliant,” said Rick Kelly, who coached both players for the Selects and then the Jr. Kings before going to work for 4Sports & Entertainment. “He’s going to be the smartest player on the ice.

“Second, he loves to score. With him, a drill is not over until the puck is in the net.”

The 6-1, 210-pound Texeira established himself as a two-way force from the blue line for a Portland Winterhawks team that was one win away from a WHL championship. He played in 21 playoff games after collecting 16 points in 65 regular-season games.

“Keoni has become a student of the game,” Kelly said. “He used to rely on being a man among boys because he was bigger and more physical than anyone. He’s still strong as an ox but he realized once he entered the Dub he better develop a more complete game.”

And it was a game that was pretty solid to begin with.

“I tried to face him as little as possible in practice,” Jackson said. “It’s never fun to go against him. He can do it all – skating, scoring. He’s also a shutdown defenseman who will – and did – run anyone through the glass. He can do some real damage.”

Opponents can expect more of the same, and then some, this season.

“I’m more confident this season. I’m getting more playing time and a bigger role,” Texeira said. “When I came in last season, my defense wasn’t that great. (Coach) Mike (Johnston) helped me a lot with that. He also told me, repeatedly, that if things aren’t going your way, you can’t get down.”

In addition to his physical attributes, Texeira (Fontana) has elite skating ability and a deep network of mentors from both California and Portland to draw upon.

“I had two great coaches in Rick and Bill (Comrie) in California,” he said. “Bill Comrie is one of the smartest men I’ve ever met. He’s had sons in the NHL. He definitely knows what he’s doing.”

Jackson (Alameda) grew up in Northern California and played for the Santa Clara Blackhawks from Pee Wees through one season of Bantam AA.

“(Coaches) Ray Kellam and Kevin Powell really helped me,” said Jackson, who committed to play college hockey at St. Cloud State.

Both players are realistic about their draft year – they know talk about it is inevitable, but at the same time nothing is guaranteed, and they want to focus on what is in front of them.

“I’ll be at practice and grip the stick too tight when I start thinking, ‘It’s my draft year,’” Jackson said. “Other times I don’t think about it at all, and that’s when I’m usually at my best.

“I try to keep my focus on Chicago and helping us to the playoffs.”

Said Texeira, “I know it’s more serious this year. I have to pay attention more to details, but I’ve seen how so many of my teammates have handled it, and that helps me keep things in perspective.”