Tim Erixon knows this is an extremely important juncture in his NHL career.
He hasn’t yet played a full season in the NHL but he has taken a big step and established himself as a top-flight defenseman in the AHL. In parts of two seasons with the Springfield Falcons, Erixon has been a top pairing player that logs minutes in all situations, earning the trust of Brad Larsen's coaching staff in key moments.
But that’s only the beginning for Erixon and what he wants to accomplish. Next up? Finding the same footing in the NHL with the Blue Jackets, and in signing a one-year, one-way deal on Tuesday, he’s taken another step toward his goal.
And Erixon knows he - more than anyone else - has the most control over where he plays in 2014-15.
“I’m planning on coming to camp in great shape and earning my opportunity,” Erixon told BlueJackets.com. “It’s up to me. I have to show them that I’m ready and that I’ve developed and can be an NHL player this year. Obviously last year wasn’t what I was looking for, but I want to bounce back this year.
“I felt like I was playing really good hockey down in Springfield, and I felt better as the year went on. There was some bad luck involved, too; I had an injury down there and had an injury up here. But at the end of the day, it comes down to me and how I play. I have to step up.”
Erixon, a first-round pick of the Calgary Flames in 2009, was traded to the Rangers and played briefly there before arriving in Columbus as part of the Rick Nash trade in the summer of 2012. He feels that Columbus has been his best fit to date, and with a stable of young defensemen on the NHL roster and in the system, he’s in a good situation with healthy competition.
In 40 games with the Falcons last season, Erixon put up 38 points (five goals, 33 assists) and also played two games with the Blue Jackets. He has more than held his own at the AHL level, but the Blue Jackets have challenged him to add muscle and prepare to play against the world’s best players on a nightly basis – and that has been a main focus of Erixon’s summer program.
“The biggest part of my game that needs developed and has to get better is just me getting stronger," Erixon said. "I’ve worked on it a lot, training hard in the summer and doing the right things off the ice. I’ve worked hard in the gym.
“Players are bigger, faster, stronger here and these are world-class players. That’s an adjustment, for sure, but this is where every player wants to be. These are the players I want to play against every night. My second year, I was up in the NHL and I played a lot of games at this level and I know I can do it. If I keep on the path I am right now, I’m hoping to be stronger and faster for training camp and I’ll be even more ready.”