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Patience becoming a virtue for Fontana product Texeira

 

Texeira

There is much more to Keoni Texeira’s game this season than setting career bests in points and goals two-thirds of the way through the Western Hockey League campaign.

Yes, the defenseman from Fontana has become an integral part of the Portland Winterhawks’ lineup. That has happened in large part, he says, because he has found a comfort zone and expanded it during his four seasons of Major Junior.

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“My hockey game has started to mature more,” Texeira said. “I’m not putting myself in dangerous situations. Learning how to be poised with the puck has been huge for me this year, just staying calm and collected in pressure situations.”

Texeira’s development hasn’t come as surprise to Portland assistant coach Oliver David, a California native himself who coaches the team’s defensemen and penalty kill.

“He doesn’t take a day for granted,” David said. “How he goes about his business, you start to understand why that translates onto the ice. Above all, he really wants to be good and really wants to be a hockey player. That passion is obvious – it oozes out of him.

“He’s part of a group of guys who are bringing along some good young defensemen, which is a reason for the continued success of the team.”

Texeira, who is one of the Winterhawks’ alternate captains, has progressively seen his role increase in what is typically a stacked Portland back end. Former teammates Matt Dumba (Minnesota) and Derrick Pouliot (Pittsburgh) are in the NHL and current teammate Caleb Jones (Edmonton) could join them (as well as his brother, Seth, another former Winterhawk) there soon.

“When I first came in (back in 2013), we had unbelievable talents, and it was easier for me to play defense,” Texeira said. “Everywhere I looked, someone was open.

“The past few years, we’ve had a younger team and I’ve had to step up my game, do all the little things better. That taught me to be a better a player. We make mistakes, but we learn from them and move on.”

One question hovering over the 6-foot, 213-pound Texeira is when he will move on, and to where. There is no question he will move on, David said.

A 1997 birth year, this is Texeira’s final year of eligibility for the NHL Draft. He attended the Washington Capitals’ prospect camp in 2016 and performed so well he garnered an invitation to the main camp.

“I’ve talked to a few teams throughout the year,” he said. “They’ve been good conversations and they’ve told me things to work on. There is high interest from a couple of teams.

“Hopefully, I will get picked.”

If he doesn’t, he should expect to generate plenty of interest as a free agent, David said. The timing of when he would sign a pro contract will determine whether or not he returns to Portland for his 20-year-old season.

“Just the fact you’re asking means it’s possible,” David said. “He’s asserting himself versus bigger, stronger guys, and NHL teams like that. He’s going to be at or near the top of the list of free agents if he’s not drafted.”

Texeira’s increase in scoring (34 points through 51 games) isn’t by accident. Not only is he receiving more power-play time this season, but he focused on fine-tuning his offensive skills that accompany his heavy shot.

“I’ve been working on being more aggressive and being up on the rush,” he said. “I worked a lot on my shooting over the summer.

“And I’m trying to be more selective with my chances on the rush, just picking the right times to go, the right times to shoot or to pass. I’m more patient. Instead of just getting the puck to the net, I’m looking for guys coming late and developing plays.”

Expect his patience to be rewarded one way or another at the next level.

Photo/Brian Heim/Portland Winterhawks

— Chris Bayee