Cam Atkinson scored 41 goals last year.
Atkinson has endeared himself to the Blue Jackets' faithful through his play and actions. He lives and breathes Columbus, and he'll retire a Blue Jacket.
However, he can be even better — and John Tortorella expects him to be.
He'll play on the first line, power play, and the penalty kill — a tall task of any NHler. "I put him in all situations, offensively and defensively," said Tortorella.
(Atkinson)'s a guy that's small in stature, but he doesn't play that way.– John Tortorella
"He keeps improving. 40 goals. But we're going to need more out of him," Tortorella continued. "And I believe we'll get that. I think he knows that there's more there."
Atkinson is certainly up to the challenge. His average ice time has increased every year that he's been in the league, so accepting more responsibility is nothing new to him.
With the reshuffling of the Blue Jackets' roster this summer, two things have been known for months — Atkinson will be the first line right winger, and Pierre-Luc Dubois will be his center. Those two form a lethal 1-2 punch, and whoever joins them on the left side can expect to see daylight due to defenses focusing on Dubois and Atkinson.
That's the concern for Atkinson's offensive production entering this season. Last year, he enjoyed more freedom because of Artemi Panarin's dynamic skill with the puck. With the defensive focus turned to him, will he be able to score or open lanes for his teammates as he did last season?
John Tortorella certainly thinks so. In fact, he expects it. While his expectations are high, he praised Atkinson and knows that he's up to the task.
"He's the full package," said Tortorella.