It has long been considered that Rick Nash is the best Columbus Blue Jacket in the short history of the franchise. Nash currently holds 24 franchise records according to hockey-reference.com. In his nine years in Columbus, Nash was the Blue Jackets star and quickly became the franchise’s best player. However, Cam Atkinson looks to change that and put his name in Nash’s place if he can keep this pace.
Atkinson vs Nash
Atkinson is currently in his eighth season with the Blue Jackets. The 29-year-old has been a consistent scorer for the team since he became a full-time player in 2013-2014. Since 2013-2014, Atkinson has scored at least 20 goals and 40 points in each season.
Compare that to Nash, outside of his rookie season, he never scored less than 27 goals with the Blue Jackets and had no fewer than 54 points in a season. Nash, however, was playing on a franchise that, at the time, had only made the Stanley Cup Playoffs once. Cam Atkinson is playing on a Blue Jackets team that is much better. In his five full seasons before this year, the team made the playoffs three times. If this season were to end today, it would be the fourth postseason appearance in six years.
Atkinson is on pace to score over 51 goals this season, that would shatter the current franchise record of 41 held by Nash. Atkinson is also on pace to get over 90 points this season, that would break Artemi Panarin’s record of 82 set last year.
When it comes to the record book, the former sixth-round pick does not stack up to Nash yet, but he is close. Atkinson currently holds eight franchise records but is close to getting some of Nash’s records. Out of Nash’s 19 franchise career records, Atkinson is in the top five for 16 of those. Out of those 16, Atkinson is second only to Nash in 10 of those categories.
One thing to keep in mind is that Nash was the first overall pick in the 2002 NHL Draft. He was expected to come in and play right away. Nash instantly started with the Blue Jackets. That was not the case for Atkinson; he was drafted 157th overall. Atkinson had to finish three seasons at Boston College and play three partial seasons in the AHL. After that was when Atkinson was promoted to the roster full time.
Atkinson has played in 189 fewer games than Nash has, even though he has only played one less season to this point. That’s a full two seasons plus 25 games that Nash has played more than him.
Atkinson has turned into an elite goal scorer for the Blue Jackets these past couple seasons. If Atkinson can keep this pace, he can surpass Nash as the greatest Blue Jacket in franchise history. However, that is still a long way to go which is fine because Atkinson is under contract through 2024-2025. Atkinson should surpass Nash well before his contract is due though. He would have to score 20 goals each season for the rest of his contract to tie Nash in goals scored. To put that in perspective, he has scored 24 already this season while only playing in 38 games so far.
Atkinson has had consistent productivity over the past five years, almost six years now. Add that into the longevity of his contract in Columbus, it should not be much longer before Atkinson takes the title of the best Blue Jacket in the history of the franchise. He may not be the most physically talented player to call Nationwide Arena home, but he would hold many franchise records and be a part of a lot of the franchise’s best teams.