When it comes to the Columbus Blue Jackets’ group of forwards, everyone will talk about Artemi Panarin.
Panarin, 27, is looked as the true superstar of this hockey club. He can put up points (Leads the team with 55 as of January 31), he can wow the crowd with his shot and speed, and he can contribute in all situations.
With that said, however, no one knows whether or not he will be with the team after the trade deadline or during the off season when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Because of this, the team’s fans have soured on him a bit, especially with his agent’s recent statement that he will not negotiate a new contract right now as he wants his client to focus on getting this team into the playoffs and having a shot at winning the Cup.
Believe it or not, the Blue Jackets have another offensive superstar that does not get talked about as much. In fact, this particular player leads the team in goals and is second in points behind Panarin.
I am talking about 29-year-old forward Cam Atkinson. Atkinson may not have the flash that Panarin has, but he certainly has close to the point-producing ability that Panarin carries.
Atkinson has 50 points with 28 goals and 22 assists. Next to Panarin, he has easily been the team’s best player and perhaps the most consistent player for this hockey club.
There are a few reasons why Atkinson is very valuable to this franchise. It all starts with the fact that he can put the puck in the net.
As I mentioned above, he currently has 28 goals, which puts him nine goals ahead of Panarin, who is currently second on the team. After Atkinson and Panarin, no one on the team has more than 15 goals.
Atkinson has actually been the team’s most consistent goal scorer since the 2013-14 season. Since that year, he has averaged 26 goals a season.
If and when the team loses Panarin, Atkinson is really going to have to lead this team offensively. He need to continue to put the puck in the net, continue to put up notes, and continue to be a guy that can play in all situations.
He’s also valuable because he is not afraid to put the puck on net. The Blue Jackets aren’t know for getting a lot of shots on goal, but as of this writing, Atkinson leads the team with 191 shots on goal.
Atkinson is also one of the hardest working players on the team. He battles for pucks, he goes hard to the net, he’s not afraid to go into the dirty areas to score goals and get rebounds, and he is also a player that can succeed in any game situation if given the opportunity to do so.
Luckily, the Blue Jackets have Atkinson locked up through the 2024-25 season. Should Panarin and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky get traded or leave the team via free agency this off season, Atkinson will be someone that this team turns to on a consistent basis to be their best player, something he already has a head start on.
*Photo: Sports Illustrated