Philadelphia Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher continues to aggressively reshape the roster as he looks to help set his team up for a postseason return in 2022. He added another defenseman in Rasmus Ristolainen from the Buffalo Sabres in a deal that saw Robert Hagg go the other way, along with their 2021 first-round pick and a 2023 second-round pick. He then addressed the forward core by sending longtime Flyer winger Jakub Voracek to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for winger Cam Atkinson. With free agency still to come, Fletcher is doing his best to change the dynamic and see if better results will occur. The go-get approach could potentially be beneficial in this regard.
Specifically looking at the forward swap, while Voracek heads back to the club he originally suited up for when he entered the NHL, Atkinson will be changing teams for the first time in his career. He made a name for himself throughout his 10-year stint with the Blue Jackets and will be looked upon to provide a spark to an offense that was ranked 15th last season in goals for (GF) with 160 in 56 games. For those who do not know, here is some background on one of the latest talents to join the Orange and Black.
Building His Path to Columbus
Atkinson went to play hockey at Avon Old Farms, which is a boarding school that also impacted the likes of players in Nick Bonino and former Flyers forward Niko Dimitrakos. During Atkinson’s time in the Winged Beavers program, he posted a total of 150 points (69 goals and 81 assists) in 80 games over the span of three campaigns. He may not have gained a lot of attention for his work there to be considered a standout that he has become today, but he did enough to catch the eyes of NHL scouts at the time. In the 2008 Draft, Atkinson was selected in the sixth round (157th overall) by Columbus. He then made his way to the Boston College Eagles team to further develop before trying to make the next jump into the Blue Jackets’ system.
While with Boston College, he notched the following stats:
- 2008-09: seven goals and 12 assists for 19 points in 36 games
- 2009-10: 30 goals and 23 assists for 53 points in 42 games
- 2010-11: 31 goals and 21 assists for 52 points in 39 games
In 2010, Atkinson was one of the best players on the Eagles when they won the NCAA men’s hockey title for the fourth time in their history. Dan Salomone of Greenwich Time discussed what he was able to do during the program’s run to the championship:
“…the Boston College sophomore and Greenwich native scored two goals en route to becoming the nation’s leading scorer, while the Eagles shut out the University of Wisconsin, 5-0, for the school’s fourth NCAA men’s hockey title,” Salomone wrote. He goes on later to say, “Overall, the Frozen Four has been good to Atkinson as well as Eagle nation. Leading up to the title game, Atkinson played a key role in knocking off top-seeded Miami (Ohio) University in the semifinal round. He scored a goal in the 7-1 victory, setting up the rematch with Wisconsin, who beat the Eagles in the 2006 title game.” (from ‘Greenwich native Atkinson leads Boston College hockey team to NCAA title’, Greenwich Time, 4/17/2010).
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Following his three seasons in that program, Atkinson was officially brought into the Blue Jackets’ system. He spent a couple of campaigns between both Columbus and their then-American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Springfield Falcons. He accrued 87 points in 89 games during parts of three seasons in the minor league before officially becoming an NHL regular in the 2013-14 hockey year.
Establishing Himself as a Top Blue Jacket
Throughout his 10-season career in Columbus, Atkinson became one of the defining players in the history of the franchise. When looking at the all-time organization leaderboard in goals and points, the only talent who had more besides Atkinson was former captain Rick Nash. Nash had 289 goals and a total of 547 points, while Atkinson finished with 213 goals along with 402 points. As for the all-time assist column, Atkinson is currently fourth with 189. The others ahead of him are Nash (258), David Vyborny (204), and Nick Foligno (192). Atkinson also leaves as the all-time franchise leader in short-handed tallies with 16. Nash is second on that board with 14.
Three of Atkinson’s biggest attributes are his speed, hands, and shot. Looking at some of his highlights throughout his time in the league so far, he’s shown a knack to speed past defenders and fake out goalies with ease in order to get a goal for his team. His ability to complete plays while being under pressure by opponents is impressive, and these factors are how he became one of the best to ever don a Blue Jackets sweater.
Atkinson chalked up the following during the 10 seasons he was with Columbus:
- 2011-12: 7 goals and 7 assists for 14 points in 27 games
- 2012-13: 9 goals and 9 assists for 18 points in 35 games
- 2013-14: 21 goals and 19 assists for 40 points in 79 games
- 2014-15: 22 goals and 18 assists for 40 points in 78 games
- 2015-16: 27 goals and 26 assists for 53 points in 81 games
- 2016-17: 35 goals and 27 assists for 62 points in 82 games
- 2017-18: 24 goals and 22 assists for 46 points in 65 games
- 2018-19: 41 goals and 28 assists for 69 points in 80 games
- 2019-20: 12 goals and 14 assists for 26 points in 44 games
- 2020-21: 15 goals and 19 assists for 34 points in 56 games
In addition, Atkinson suited up for five postseason runs between 2014 and 2020. In 35 career playoff games, he posted 10 goals and 16 assists for 26 points. He left quite an impact on the Blue Jackets faithful while playing for the club, to say the least.
Atkinson in the Flyers Lineup
The skillset that Atkinson brings to the rink every game now will be just another weapon alongside a forward group that already included the likes of captain Claude Giroux, Kevin Hayes, Travis Konecny, James van Riemsdyk, and Joel Farabee, among others. Placing Atkinson’s 34 points into last season’s Flyer stat leaders, he would have tied Konecny for sixth on the squad in points. I think Philadelphia can bring back the Atkinson capable of producing 30 goals, though. The roster Fletcher is currently working on has assets who can set him up to prosper as he did in Columbus seasons prior. It will be up to head coach Alain Vigneault and his staff to figure out how to bring out the best in his play. I believe the team gets a big offensive push out of him in 2021-22.
I have been a hockey fan for most of my life, and have played the game myself for more than six years. I graduated from the State University of New York at Oswego in 2018, with a bachelor’s in Broadcasting & Mass Communication. Previous positions held include being a Sports Analyst for Oswego’s student-run TV station, WTOP-10; News/Sports Intern for WIVB-TV Channel 4; and Sports Beat Writer Intern for Pro Player Insiders.