After a laundry list of underwhelming choices, including Chris Stewart and Zack Kassian (please no), the latest forward to be linked with the Bruins is 25-year-old Cam Atkinson of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
CBJ have had a weird, frustrating year where injuries have essentially torpedoed their chances of making the playoffs for their second straight season. Atkinson is a pending RFA, not a true rental, but it's reasonable to think that, from the CBJ view, Atkinson may be more of a guy you like in your Top 9 if he's cheap rather than a guy you place a priority on re-signing. Columbus isn't really close to the cap, mind you, but dealing Atkinson and giving younger players a shot would give them even more financial flexibility.
Atkinson's usual position is RW, which is an area the Bruins have had a wee bit of trouble nailing down good options this season, which is a plus. And while he's not a super-efficient shooter--he's converted 9.5% of SOG into goals in his career--he is an impressive triggerman in terms of pouring shots on net. Atkinson had 216 SOG last season, which would've put him second on the Bruins behind only Patrice Bergeron (and slightly ahead of the much more efficiently-converting Jarome Iginla). His stat profile and the scouting report I was given by one of the CBJ blogs make his acquisition an interesting idea for the B's, who could use a shoot-first winger to play with David Krejci or Patrice Bergeron.
Atkinson had something of a breakout year last season for Columbus, scoring 40 points (21 goals in 82 games). The former BC player (no one's perfect) scoring rate was around 1.9 P/60 last season, rating him as a solid second line option when taking into account his TOI. His CF% was an impressive 51.3% last season as well, and he's been both a solid depth scorer and slight above average possession player (50.5 CF% at 5s for his career) since making his entrance into the league.
Atkinson's rates have fallen off slightly this season, as he's at 48.0 CF% and 1.6 P/60 this season. He's posted 21 points in 48 games this year, which arguably doesn't represent much of a drop off when you consider the injuries to linemates early in the year. Put simply, while he's no world-beater, he seems to be fair a pretty decent Top 9 forward who's making less than Greg Campbell et al this season. That's not to pick further on Campbell et al, rather to point out that Atkinson's salary is not much of an issue. Regardless, even with this year's possession drop overall, he's still outperforming your average Blue Jacket in Relative Corsi, so maybe it's Todd Richards' system that's breaking a bit more than Atkinson.
I confess, of course, that I wouldn't know about that from firsthand experience, though. So here's that scouting report from the nice folks at theunionblue.com:
Atkinson is a standard go-to on shootouts and actually leads the Jackets in GWG this season. Many are high on him, believe his potential isn't yet truly realized - but it's about fit in an organization.Atkinson is a strong offensive player, and was a Hobey Baker finalist at BC (you probably already know that). his skill is best realized when he's put in a line that gives him the time and space he needs to snipe. HIs size is the most obvious disadvantage - the club lists him at 5'8" - but, with the injuries the Jackets have faced this season he's found a way to add a physical side to his game. He does not see a lot of time on special teams but isn't a liability on the power play.There seems to be some difference of opinion between the current Jackets system and Atkinson. He was benched late last season and was challenged by head coach Todd Richards to play more physically. It's a compliment to Atkinson that he's added that to his game.
Off the ice, he's obviously a fit for the NE, big into music - he picks the team win song - and is known (jokingly) for his love of his (small) dogs.
Finished? Here's what I get out of that: according to the people who watch him on a regular basis, he's injected more of a physical edge to his game to go along with the shot-pouring. Seems like he's also a good player to have on the PP2 unit if you're short a trigger man. He's not a penalty killer, but I sort of doubt the Bruins are prioritizing that given Kelly, Marchand, Bergeron, Paille, and Campbell all already log PK minutes (and Krejci/Eriksson can do it in a pinch).
The coaching thing isn't something I'm going to go heavy on, since 1, plenty of players excel with a change of scenery and 2. Atkinson has still played well once you grade on the CBJ curve; there's no way to tell if Atkinson would like playing under Julien's system more than Richards', of course, but it is worth mentioning that if the Bruins like what they see, Atkinson is only 25 and he could very well still improve.
The line about needing space to snipe makes me think he could be good with Bergeron, who already has one winger who excels at creating space, or even on the third line with Carl Soderberg and David Pastrnak if the Bruins decide that Louiiii will log more minutes on one of the Top 2 lines.
My thoughts on this is that, for the right price, he'd make a nice addition to the B's forward corps. Of course, this wouldn't do much to address the B's current issues with their defensive pairing behind Z/Dougie, but that doesn't mean the FO can't improve the team in other ways. I'm not married to the Atkinson idea, but it's the first rumor that actually seems to be about a worthwhile player, and I wonder if Chiarelli might be able to get him on the relative cheap given CBJ's questionable trade history and the lack of guaranteed years on his deal.
This seems like a case where the Bruins might be able to buy relatively low on a solid player who could help the Top 9 and power play. Hard not to subjectively like the dude who picks the team's "win song," by the way...