Atkinson poised for breakout season
OCT 30, 2013 10:25a ET
Patrick Kane (5’9” – Chicago Blackhawks), Martin St. Louis (5’7” – Tampa Bay Lightning), Brad Marchand (5’9” – Boston Bruins) and Danny Briere (5’10” – Montreal Canadiens) have all overcome the stereotype that to be competitive in the NHL you need to be big.
Add to this list Columbus’ Cam Atkinson. Standing a diminutive 5’7”, he is able to drop his skating into another gear and appear to be shot out of the cannon that fires after every Blue Jackets goal.
Atkinson , born in 1989 and hailing from Riverside, CT, was drafted by Columbus in the 6th round (157th overall) of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft out of Avon Old Farms (a private school in Avon, CT). He went on to play college hockey for Boston College from 2008 – 2011, leading the nation in goals scored (30) during 2009-2010. He was named to the NCAA Championship All-Tournament Team in 2010, was the Hockey East Tournament MVP (2010-2011) and named to the 2011-2012 AHL Eastern Conference All Star Team.
He lost some of that speed in last year’s lockout shortened season, playing with a high ankle sprain. Although hobbled with injury, he put up 9-9-18 in 35 games for the Blue Jackets last season. In 73 career NHL games, he’s 19-18-37 with +/- of +8. He’s a natural right winger who has no problem switching to left side, if need be.
He took time this summer to make sure that his ankle was healed and is healthy 11 games into the 2013-2014 season. He’s more explosive off the line, able to get behind defenders with relative ease. “It’s because I’m not hurt”, said Atkinson. “I don’t have that high ankle sprain anymore, so now I can play the way I’ve always played my whole life.”
“It’s nice when you have two ankles or two legs that are 100 percent each. Speed is one of my best assets. I try to use it as much as possible.”
Cam Atkinson feeds off of playmakers, such as Brandon Dubinsky. “I’ve been playing with Dubi a lot lately”, he said. “We’ve built some pretty good chemistry and just kind of read off of each other. My mentality out there is as soon as I see that we get the puck and have full control of it, I try taking off or just being in the zone so I can use my speed to push the ‘D’ back.”
He knows that to be successful, Columbus needs to stay within their system and play the game their way. “That stretch where we lost four in a row, it seemed like the first three that we lost we could have won”, Atkinson said. “The Washington game I think that we were tired and didn’t play our game.”
“We can’t feed into what other teams do. We have to play the way that we know we are capable of playing, never getting outworked. Throw it in deep on the forecheck, compete like hell and cause turnovers (on the opposition). We’re a team with a lot of speed. So, we have to use that as our asset and wear teams down.”
He believes, as does the rest of the team, that they can beat anybody on any given night. This Zeitgeist within the team is strong. The game against the Toronto Maple Leafs (a Columbus 5-2 win) was a prime example. “They have a lot of offensive weapons and their ‘D’ like to join in the rush. It just goes to show, when we’re on top of our game, competing hard, throwing pucks behind their defense, making them work, hitting them, just causing a lot of pressure on them to make turnovers gives us a lot of opportunities. We’ve just got to keep that ball rolling.”
Through the first 11 games, Atkinson is on pace for 22 goals this season, which is what the Blue Jackets need from him. He is healthy and stepping up his game within an organization that has the identity of being hard-working and never giving up.
•Columbus General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen has been named Assistant GM of Team Finland for the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. “I am very excited to work with Jarri Kuri (hockey hall of famer), head coach Erkka Westerlund and the Finnish Ice Hockey Association. Representing your country at the Olympics is a tremendous honor, so this is a very proud moment for my family and I.”
•Forward Cody Bass, who suffered a hand injury in a preseason game vs. Minnesota September 23, has been reassigned to the Blue Jackets AHL affiliate Springfield Falcons. He was re-signed by Columbus to a one year/two-way contract in July 2013.