He may not be an All-Star, nor is he among the team's highest-paid players. He wasn't a high draft pick, either.
Nonetheless, Cam Atkinson is the most important forward on the roster right now.
1) Currently tied for the team lead in points with 37.
2) Currently tied for second in goal scoring with 19.
3) Has the team's only two shorthanded goals this season.
4) Has the team's only overtime goal this season.
5) Is second in ice time among forwards. averaging 17:31 per game.
6) Third on the team in Corsi% at 50.18.
7) Second on the team in Corsi% Close at 51.21.
Atkinson has been playing point on the powerplay of late, and has become an elite penalty killer. His ability to anticipate the play has led to multiple shorthanded chances.
He's entrenched on the Jackets' most dependable line, playing right wing alongside Boone Jenner and Brandon Dubinsky. This trio leads the team among forwards in defensive zone starts, a sure sign of the trust the coaching staff has in the trio.
He's signed to an incredibly team-friendly contract, with a cap hit of $3.5 million per year for the next two seasons.
Cam has been consistent as a pro thus far, scoring 40 points in each of the last two seasons, in 79 and 78 games played, respectively. He's in the midst of a career year: three points away from his previous highs in just 58 appearances.
Whether it's brick-by-brick, rebuild, re-tool, whatever it is this team is trying to do, one thing stands out. Cam Atkinson must be included as part of the foundation. The numbers don't lie, and from the fan perspective he's one of the most exciting players on the roster, thanks to his speed, skill and tenaciousness. With the trade deadline coming up, teams will be asking about his availability. If the Jackets are wise, they'll respond with a swift "nope".
Let's not forget, Cam is also leading the team in helping young fans get new best friends.