CHICAGO — When training camps open next week, the Columbus Blue Jackets will be missing a number of faces that helped stage the biggest upset of the 2018-19 NHL season. Gone are Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, and Sergei Bobrovsky. But for Cam Atkinson, the franchise’s longest-tenured player, there are a number of players who can take on bigger roles this coming season to offset those losses.
“A guy like Josh Anderson taking a step forward and being more of a powerhouse and bringing it every single game,” Atkinson told NBC Sports during the 2019 NHL Player Media Tour in Chicago this week, “Not that he didn’t, but every guy’s going to have to step up.
“I’m going to have to step up more, guys like Seth Jones can contribute more. Zach Werenski, I look at him and he can contribute more offensively, I think. [Oliver] Bjorkstrand can score a lot of goals.”
One player who got a small taste of the NHL last season with two regular season and eight Stanley Cup playoff games is Alexandre Texier. The French forward saw plenty of time on a line with Anderson and captain Nick Foligno in the postseason and scored twice in Game 4 to knock out the top-seeded Tampa Bay Lightning.
Atkinson firmly believes Texier will be one of the Blue Jackets’ impact players and do it for a long time.
“He’s a young guy that played some playoff games last year. He’s a 19-year-old kid, so I think he’s going to have a great career,” he said.
Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella is “pissed” about the personnel departures, but to Atkinson, he understands it’s a business.
Heading into the 2019-20 season, Columbus is a team that’s being pegged as a bottom dweller. That’s something Atkinson believes the Blue Jackets can rally behind.
“I think you have to look at it like we have to come in with a chip on our shoulder because everyone’s written us off already,” Atkinson said. “How do you think that makes the players feel? You can either go one of two ways: you can either take that and use that as motivation to prove people wrong or you can use it and go the opposite way and say maybe they were right.
“I know being a leader I’m going to make sure we come in with a chip on our shoulder and prove people wrong.”
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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.