John Tortorella Gets First Look at Cam Atkinson on the Blue Jackets' New No. 1 Line, But Wants to See More

By Andy Anders on September 26, 2017 at 8:10 am

Given his 35-goal, All-Star season, it wasn't a surprise to many that Cam Atkinson got the first turn first alongside Artemi Panarin and Alexander Wennberg.

There's a fast, dynamic element to all three players, and their creativity was on display in their preseason debut on Sunday afternoon.

With a combined six points against the Nashville Predators in the Blue Jackets' 5-3 preseason loss, the trio showed a great deal of promise and may have earned another go. If you'll recall, Brandon Saad, Nick Foligno and Ryan Johansen played a few games together in the preseason two years ago but were split up early in the season.

Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella was asked after Sunday's game about the benefits of using Atkinson with Panarin and Wennberg, primarily from a tactical standpoint.

"I wanted to give Cam a chance [on the first line]," Tortorella replied. "I think Cam will chase pucks." 

While the question may have dealt with Atkinson, Tortorella made mention of how pleased he was with Artemi Panarin's play on the left wing.

"There's a lot more to [Panarin] than just scoring goals," Tortorella said. "He understands the game. I think he does a lot of work within his game."

While there is quite a bit of hype surrounding the potential combination, it's not entirely set in stone. Tortorella left the door open to try other combinations, and he likely will, but the advantages that Atkinson brings to the table are clear.

"I'm not sure if that [first line] stays, who knows?" Tortorella said. "But I wanted to give Cam a look over there. Just with his quickness, his speed, and jumping on pucks to help that line."

The play of Wennberg, Panarin, and Atkinson as a potential unit is one of the main storylines surrounding the Blue Jackets entering the season, but it appears that the soonest the three will play together again this preseason is later this week when the Blue Jackets visit the Nashville Predators. Tortorella said Tuesday's lineup against St. Louis is going to be heavy on players making auditions, and the same is expected from the Blues' side.

"I don't think a lot of our top guys will be in," Tortorella said. "I'm looking more towards those last two games against Nashville and then [the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday]."

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