Cam Atkinson: Rookie of the Year?
Blue Jackets rookie and former Boston College Eagle Cam Atkinson opened a lot of eyes this training camp. As the Columbus Dispatch's Aaron Portzline puts it:
Rookie winger Cam Atkinson arrived at Blue Jackets training camp with only a tiny chance to win a spot on the roster. Next year? Sure. Or maybe he’d be a call-up from minor-league Springfield a time or two this season.
But Atkinson, a 5-foot-7 dervish with swollen confidence and a sniper’s touch, continued to elevate his play the past two weeks until he laid waste to the Blue Jackets’ best-laid plans.
Portzline goes on to mention that, regardless of whom he's been paired with, Atkinson has always looked solid. He scored 2 goals and added 2 assists during the pre-season, and is set to open the season Friday night on the second line with R.J. Umberger and Antoine Vermette.
In a season that is seeing the debut of first-round pick Ryan Johansen, a fourth-year pro in Maksim Mayorov, and the high-scoring defenseman David Savard, Atkinson, fresh out of college, looks to make the most noise.
Stat sheets list him as anywhere from 5'7'' 165 lbs. to 5'9'' 175 lbs.; there's no getting around the fact that he's small. Despite his size, he adds more scoring punch to the team than perhaps anyone not named Rick Nash or Jeff Carter. Over his last two seasons at Boston College, he led the nation in goal-scoring with 61 goals. At one point, he scored three hat tricks in a 10-game span. After his college career came to an end, he signed his pro contract with the Blue Jackets, and put up 3-2-5 in 5 games to end the season with the Springfield Falcons.
Atkinson never quits and is always headed towards the net, as evidenced in this highlight reel.
Atkinson is going to get a decent amount of minutes and a great chance to prove himself. He could prove to be the secondary scoring threat this team needs. With Nash, Carter, and Vinny Prospal on the top line, they will command the opponent's top defenders. This is going to open up a lot of room playing against weaker defenders for the likes of Atkinson, Umberger, and Vermette. (Don't forget that fourth line of Derick Brassard, Johansen, and Mayorov that will give some teams fits that are rolling a traditional fourth line.)
If Atkinson can continue to score, and there's nothing really suggesting he won't, he should see some power play time, and Scott Arniel will likely try to work him into as many playing situations as he sees fit.
Cam could put up a rookie season for a forward like we haven't seen in Columbus -- not even from Nash. Could he be our next Calder Trophy winner?