Sunday, September 2, 2012

What to Expect From: Cam Atkinson

In this series, we're going to go through each player, examine what they have been able to produce in the past and what it would be reasonable to expect from them in the coming season, mostly using logic. The goal is to have a statistical expectation for the team as a whole, to see how well they might fare in 2012-13. This is an alternative to just throwing your hands up in the air, crying, drinking excessively (although this activity doesn't exclude drinking) and playing russian roulette alone in my basement all summer.

The eleventh player in our series has gotten quite a few panties wet. He's the Blue Jackets' own little Justin Bieber. He's Cam Atkinson.

Can you believe I found these in Chris Pronger's pockets?
Cam was a winning lottery ticket of a player. He was the Jackets' sixth round pick back in 2008 (another not terrible move for Howson, if you were counting) and he's developed ever since, debuting in the NHL this last season and teaching us all something about underestimating players based on size.

More over the jump.

Back in 2008, Atkinson was going into his rookie NCAA season with the Boston College Eagles and he was undersized and underestimated at that point. He worked hard to establish himself as a top-tier NCAA player over the next three seasons and really proved his worth on the ice as a sneaky, slippery, fast scoring forward. He learned how to dodge and weave and deke his way through hockey east defensemen and how to bury the puck behind the best goaltenders that NCAA had to offer. He was well over a point per game in his final two seasons at BC and when he showed up at CBJ development camp last year, Cam looked flat-out dangerous. After his last season, he was announced as a Hobey Baker award finalist, which is probably a sign that you've outgrown the NCAA. 

Last year was the season where he was supposed to stay in Massacheussetts and keep stewing in those New England juices for another season before breaking into the NHL. But alas, not all things go according to plan and 2011-12 was one of those years. Cam got called up due to injury and we found out why he was so highly regarded. 

Here are his stats over a brief career, from hockeydb:


Regular SeasonPlayoffs
SeasonTeamLgeGPGAPtsPIM+/-GPGAPtsPIM
2008-09Boston CollegeH-East367121928 
2009-10Boston CollegeH-East4230235330 
2010-11Boston CollegeH-East3931215228 
2010-11Springfield FalconsAHL532502----------
2011-12Columbus Blue JacketsNHL277714141----------
2011-12Springfield FalconsAHL51291544315----------
NHL Totals27771414

Over 27 games, on one of the worst offensive teams in the league, Cam was able to put up 7G, 7A for 14Pts. That's pretty decent, especially for a rookie. If you extrapolate that out over a whole season, it would be around 21G, 21A for 42 points, or good enough to be a serviceable 2nd line winger. It would be more points than Brassard put up last season, anyway. And don't forget that he was a +1, which is no small feat when he was playing for last year's CBJ. 

When you take his NHL equivalency numbers and try to convert them, you end up with a conversion rate of 0.47-0.41, which would correspond to an optimistic 0.4 PPG rate at the NHL level (dropping the projected point total over an entire season down to 33). This makes me pause a little bit at automatically crowning him a bonafide top 6 winger and 40+ point producer. 

Also on the negative side, Cam's points came at odd intervals. He scored his first hat trick in Colorado at the end of the season, and 6 of his 14 points came in the final two games. Is this representative of what we can expect of Atkinson? It doesn't sound plausible to me, especially when you take into account the special circumstances surrounding the final two games of the season (which guys he faces, how hard they might play, how much the opposing coach/fans play into it...) I love Cam, but don't call me a curmudgeon if I'm skeptical about his point production over the final stretch of games last year keeping pace through the next one.

One thing about the coming season that is certain from my standpoint is that there won't be any excuses if Atkinson can't put up good numbers. The situations that Cam will be put in will be different than most AHL call-ups and he will get plenty of opportunities to put up points, which would skew the equivalency numbers. He will probably start the wing on the power play and get the cream of the crop for line mates. The volume of his scoring opportunities should essentially double compared with his entire NHL stretch in 2011-12 if he ends up playing on the first line through a full season. I expect him to start on the first line to start the season at the very least. Really, the only thing left standing in Atkinson's way is the opposition. Let's hope he can keep improving and keep Camsanity rolling.

At NASA camp, Cam Atkinson excelled in Space-docking.
Prediction for Cam Atkinson in 2012-13: 23G, 23A for 46 points.





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