Cam Atkinson has been through a lot to this point in his brief NHL career.
He scored his first career goal early on in a game against the Vancouver Canucks in October 2011, but not long after that, was sent back to the Springfield Falcons (AHL) because his game wasn’t as consistent as it needed to be. The Blue Jackets also underwent major change in the 2011-12 campaign, replacing Scott Arniel with Todd Richards in January and beginning a major overhaul in hockey operations a few months later.
TRAINING CAMP CENTRAL
When Atkinson returned to the Blue Jackets later that season, he was AHL’s leading goal scorer and on the verge of becoming a dynamic NHL player. He recorded his first NHL hat trick against the Colorado Avalanche and went into the summer of 2012 with his eyes on a roster spot that fall.
The NHL lockout pushed things back a bit, but Atkinson came out flying with the Blue Jackets in 2013. He scored a beautiful goal on opening night against Detroit and was on track to solidifying a top-six spot, but a high ankle sprain derailed his season and he didn’t quite feel right the rest of the way.
But there’s good news as the Blue Jackets prepare to begin Training Camp presented by OhioHealth later this week: Atkinson is back to 100 percent, according to GM Jarmo Kekalainen, and is feeling much better than he did last spring.
“Everybody knows he’s not the biggest guy in the world, so he’s going to need his quickness,” Kekalainen said. “A high-ankle sprain is one of the worst injuries in hockey and it just kind of keeps nagging on. You can maybe play with it or play through it but you’re not going to be 100 percent.
“He’s 100 percent now and he’s ready to go again. With his quickness and his skating he can weave through the traffic and compete with the bigger players, and that’s exceptional. I think we’re going to see a difference this year with his play and his ability to create offense.”
Generating more offense has been a focal point for the Blue Jackets as they look to challenge for a playoff spot in the newly-minted Metropolitan Division. With their move to the Eastern Conference, there will be a difference in the style of play and scoring is (as always) of high importance.
Atkinson is a big part of that, having proven himself as a goal-scorer in college hockey with Boston College and at the AHL level with Springfield. The 24-year-old is likely to play on one of the Blue Jackets’ top two lines this season and get ample time on the power play, and now that he’s healthy, Davidson and Kekalainen are expecting him to be one of the young players to take a step forward in their development.