The year that was...
With all the excitement surrounding Ryan Johansen’s breakout season, one could overlook another Blue Jacket forward boasting 30-goal potential for the 2014-15 season. After scoring nine goals during the lockout-shortened 2013 season, Cam Atkinson came right back with another strong campaign, scoring 21 goals and adding 19 assists last season to finish fourth in team scoring.
The 25 year-old Boston College product took part in his first full-length NHL season, after a shortened 2013 campaign and being called up by the Jackets for the final 27 games in 2012, in which he netted seven goals and seven assists.
While the season stats paint Atkinson as a picture of consistency, the young scorer had his ups and downs last year, including an 11-game stretch in late December- early January in which he had only one goal. That slump saw shuffle around the lineup to make room for Nathan Horton’s return to the lineup.
|Click here for Cam Atkinson's "season in photos" album on BlueJackets.com. |
Referencing the slump, Atkinson told the Dispatch, “When I get away from what I do best, I’m not really valuable. When I’m skating and using my speed and helping my teammates out by creating plays, we score some goals. When I’m not doing that, nothing really happens.”
Atkinson got back on track and regained top-six form to finish the season, and he remained on a solid line with Brandon Dubinsky and Matt Calvert in the playoffs, where he recorded a goal and two assists in six games against the Penguins.
Where is he now?
Atkinson needs to stick to the blueprint that has brought success to small forwards in the NHL – quickness, agility and the sharp release that has made him a top-six forward since college. Whether he plays alongside Dubinsky and Calvert to open the season remains to be seen, but if so, he figures to have plenty of space and will have ample opportunities to shoot the puck.
It’s not crazy to think his 9.7 shooting percentage will climb this season, and his 5-on-5 Corsi For (CF%) of 51.2 could jump as well (it’s definitely possible, considering both Dubinsky and Calvert are solid possession players). It’s pro year number four for Atkinson, and it’s a year where he should be able to take the next step and mature as a scorer.
BlueJackets.com projected line mates: Brandon Dubinsky and Matt Calvert
With a maturing scoring touch, a little more puck luck, and perhaps augmented power play responsibility, Atkinson can be a 30-goal man for Columbus.
At the very least, it seems it would take a lot for him to take a step backwards.