Texeira, Weinger stay the course with Winterhawks
The novelty of being named as potential picks in the NHL Entry Draft has worn off slightly for Keoni Texeira and Evan Weinger.
Despite cracking the Central Scouting Service’s rankings as potential fourth- to sixth-round draft picks for the second consecutive year, both former Los Angeles Jr. Kings (Texeira also played for the LA Selects) who play for the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League say they’ve learned their lesson from a year ago.
“I’m not trying to focus too much on it,” said Texeira, an 18-year-old defenseman from Fontana. “I made it last year as well, and it kind of got in my head a little bit.
“This year I’m not really thinking about it. It’s nice to be recognized, but if I keep playing my game, it’ll pay off whether I’m on a list or not.”
Weinger, an 18-year-old winger from El Segundo, agrees.
“It’s pretty cool, but at the end of the day it doesn’t really mean anything,” said Weinger. “I think last year I was just shocked I was on this list, and when the draft came around and I didn’t (get picked) I was kind of bummed out. It’s flattering, but it doesn’t mean much until you actually get drafted.”
“A list is a list; it’s just an opinion,” said Portland head coach and general manager Jamie Kompon. “I always tell our guys that if you’re good enough, the NHL will find you.
“At the end of the day, you’re getting 30 teams plus Central Scouting looking at you, and they won’t all agree. I don’t take much stock in these lists, personally.”
Despite being passed over in last year’s draft, Texeira still garnered NHL attention and accepted an invitation to the Washington Capitals’ development camp in July before getting another look with the club at the team’s main camp in September.
“That was one of the best experiences of my life,” said Texeira. “The competition was tough and it was an incredible learning experience for me – not just on-ice stuff, but how to prepare off the ice as well.
“It gives you a taste of what the next level is like, and it makes you want it even more.”
Kompon has noticed the difference in Texeira’s game.
“From last year to this year, Keoni has taken a huge step,” said Kompon, who named Texeira an alternate captain prior to the season. “He’s bearing down and doing the right things, and the maturation process from last year to this one has been unbelievable.
“He’s taken care of himself physically, he’s more mature, and he’s more of a leader. He’s taking ownership and responsibility for his game, and that’s part and parcel with being a veteran player and leading the way for our team.”
Transitioning into his second season has been tougher for Weinger, who had only two goals through his first 25 games. Coming off of offseason shoulder surgery to repair his labrum, Weinger has struggled and knows he’s under the gun to increase his production.
“I’ve got to pick it up, but it’s still early,” said Weinger. “I need to start finishing around the net. I’m not burying anything right now, but the chances are there and I’m confident I can get to where I need to be.”
Getting Weinger going is a priority for Kompon, who’s going to need both players at their best to help guide the Winterhawks back to familiar winning territory.
“The one thing Evan has to bring is consistency,” said Kompon. “He needs to show that he can perform night in and night out at the top level, and that’s been a struggle for him this season so far. He can be a top-six forward, and we need him to be that guy for us.
“Both of them need to bring their A-game every shift. We can’t have these two taking shifts off; they’re relied on too heavily now.”
– John B. Spigott