After losing more than one hundred days of the 2012-2013 NHL season, the two sides finally reached a deal in the early hours of Sunday morning. Having a shortened NHL season is, of course, good for the sport of hockey. It also means that a lot of hockey players could be leaving the teams they have been playing with during the lockout to return to their respective NHL teams. One such player could be Cam Atkinson. Atkinson is currently playing with the Springfield Falcons of the AHL, but is property of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Atkinson spent last season between the NHL and AHL; he is poised to do the same this year after how well he has started the season. With 17 goals and 21 assists he currently ranks third in the AHL for overall points. In his last 16 games, Atkinson has notched 9 goals and 13 assists, notching at least a point in 14 of those 16 games.
“I think I’ve just been fortunate to play with some pretty good players,” Cam Atkinson said of his play lately after a recent win.
Despite Atkinson’s undeniable talent on the ice, he refuses to put his recent success solely on his own shoulders. Instead, he puts some of the credit on his teammates. “I haven’t been scoring in a couple games” said Atkinson, “but I’ve been finding other guys and they’ve been burying it. It’s been good.”
Some of Atkinson’s teammates have a different outlook. Ryan Craig has been playing on a line with Atkinson on and off throughout the season. Craig is also the team’s captain who returned to the Springfield Falcons after having last played with them during the 2005-2006 season, where he was also captain.
“He’s been good all year. It’s funny how the puck bounces and follows him around the ice,” Ryan Craig said of the recent point streak Cam Atkinson has had.
“I played against him a couple times last year and he was a talented player” Craig said, acknowledging Atkinson’s skill. “But I think he’s exceeded my expectations of him with how he competes and how he works. The puck just seems to find him and the way he carries himself is great.”
Anyone who has seen Cam Atkinson play can acknowledge that his captain is right in his notion that Atkinson has a knack for finding the puck and always knowing what to do with it. It also seems to be clear that Cam Atkinson will find a spot on the training camp roster for the Blue Jackets during this abbreviated season. Despite his size, Atkinson is making his presence felt in the AHL playing on a team that holds the lead in their division.
The AHL is billed as the top development league for the NHL and that role is even easier to see during a locked out period. Players that are eligible go down to play with the AHL affiliate of their NHL club. There, they are able to work on skills that they feel need improvement. Atkinson has been no different.
“I think it helps just your overall game. It helps to play good defense, at the next level that’s huge. If you can play good defense as a forward down here, it can only help at the next level,” Atkinson said of what he’s taken away from AHL games already this season.
The NHL teams will be opening up their training camps within the next few days and the abbreviated season will be opening shortly thereafter. Players like Atkinson are hoping the skills that they have worked on in the AHL thus far this season will earn them a spot on opening day NHL rosters.