Cam Atkinson has been a good NHL player for quite some time now. He’s emerged as one of the league’s breakout stars this season.
Amidst what has been a breakout season for the Columbus Blue Jackets, Atkinson has been the club’s best player with 24 goals and 46 points in 47 games, the point total tying him for eighth with Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele. He was the catalyst behind the Jackets league-high 16-game winning streak this season, with 10 goals and 18 points over that stretch from November 29th to January 3rd.
It was for the reason why it was a little bit of a shock that Atkinson wasn’t added to the Metropolitan Division team for the NHL All-Star Game, not that the group of forwards was any slouch with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, John Tavares, Alex Ovechkin, Wayne Simmonds, and Taylor Hall. The Blue Jackets roster spot among skaters (all 30 teams must have at least one player) went to defenseman Seth Jones. Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky was named an all-star as well.
But with Malkin pulling out of the game due to a lower-body injury, a spot opened up for Atkinson, who was the obvious replacement. So with Malkin out, it was Atkinson in, and he’ll suit up on Sunday in Los Angeles, as should have been the case all along.
It wasn’t unreasonable to feel a third spot for Columbus was necessary given the season it was having, but squeezing in another Blue Jacket was easier said than done given how strong the Metro is as opposed the Central Division; which included four Blackhawks or the Pacific; where three San Jose Sharks made the team. There’s no doubt the idea of having a team for every division creates a flaw, in that some divisions have a lot more talent than others (the Atkinson case being Exhibit ‘A’) but this current format of the four divisions coming together for a four-team short tournament has created a buzz around the event like never before.