28-Year-Old Right Wing – Columbus Blue Jackets
Cam Atkinson Contract Information:
Signed a seven-year, $40.25 million contract extension with the Blue Jackets in November of 2017.
Atkinson came up empty on a game-high seven shot attempts in Friday's 2-0 win over the Rangers at home.
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Cam Atkinson: Past News Updates ( ▲ View most recent update )
RotoWire's Preseason Outlooks
Atkinson put together the best season of his career in 2015-2016, tying for the team lead in points with 53 while recording his third straight 20-plus-goal campaign. While the 27-year-old doesn't have the skill set or size to be an elite sniper, he's been amazing consistent since becoming a full-time player for the Jackets, carving out a regular spot in their top six and on the power play. As the club's next wave of prospects breaks into the NHL, he could slip down the depth chart or get dealt, but at least for next season, he appears to be secure in his role.
After consecutive 40-point seasons, Atkinson has proven himself to be a reliable NHL winger, but it's questionable whether he'll reach the star-quality upside he flashed at Boston College and in the AHL. He's undersized at 5-foot-8, but Atkinson is strong for his size and hard on the puck, reminiscent in a way of a lower-end version of the Rangers' Mats Zuccarello. He's entering his age-26 season, so the time to make a big leap forward offensively is now, but it's concerning that Atkinson merely replicated the prior season's production despite seeing a significant increase in average ice time. Still, if Atkinson's mates on the Jackets' second line, Boone Jenner and Brandon Dubinsky, can stay healthy, they've got a chance to provide the sort of fearsome scoring depth that can propel Columbus back into the playoffs.
Atkinson finally put things together last season, scoring 21 goals and 40 points in 79 games while filling a variety of roles on the wing for the Blue Jackets. The addition of Scott Hartnell could make it tough for Atkinson to see top-six ice time this season though, and while a third-line placement on an improving roster isn't the worst fate for a young winger, it will limit his fantasy ceiling. Don't expect him to take things to another level unless injuries ahead of him open up some prime minutes for him.
The undersized sparkplug Atkinson battled ankle injuries most of the season and managed just nine goals and 18 points in 35 NHL games, although his surprising plus-9 rating led all Blue Jackets forwards and his AHL production (17 goals and 38 points in 33 games) was outstanding. When he's healthy he's capable of supplying some big goals, but the late-season addition of Marian Gaborik and the Nathan Horton signing make things very crowded on the wings in Columbus and Atkinson could find it tough to keep hold of a top-six placement. If he does stay on a scoring line though, don't underestimate his fantasy potential.
The young winger had a mostly successful first full season in the pros, lighting the lamp 29 times in 51 AHL games while posting a more modest but still solid 7-7-14 line in 27 games with Columbus. He came on towards the end of the season, scoring 10 of his points in the final six games, including an eye-popping five goals in the final two; he will be given a long look as a potential top-six forward on a Rick Nash-less Blue Jackets' roster that is starving for snipers. He still has yet to prove that he can make a consistent impact in the NHL given his tiny stature, but if he can find space on the ice, Atkinson has the skill to break through to the 20-goal level as a sophomore.
Even in the modern NHL, players with Atkinson's small stature have trouble making an impact. Still, this particular waterbug is coming off consecutive 30-goal seasons to finish his career at Boston College and a point-a-game pace in his first, brief exposure to the pros at the AHL level. He heads into camp with a real shot at winning a third or fourth line role for the Blue Jackets, but even if he breaks camp with Columbus don't expect a fantasy-worthy output.