GREENWICH, Conn. — Large, muscular, and tough. Those are characteristics that personify the prototypical hockey
player. But at just 5-foot-8 and 180 pounds, Columbus Blue Jackets forward Cam Atkinson, 26, has a different look.
The Greenwich native's path to hockey was a natural one. Born to a Canadian father who played semi-pro hockey, Atkinson and his five brothers honed their talents on the ice. Playing for the local hockey league in Fairfield County, Atkinson became fast friends with Max Pacioretty of New Canaan and Jonathan Quick of Milford before each rose to prominence in the NHL.
"It's great to surround yourself with such great people who push you to be the best player," Atkinson said.
To further develop as a hockey player, Atkinson attended high school at Avon Old Farms, an upstate all-boys boarding school. Playing for legendary head coach John Gardner, who produced future NHL notables Brian Leetch and Chris Higgins, Atkinson also learned valuable lessons off the ice. "I learned structure and to have routine from him. He had every answer for anything you wanted to know," Atkinson said.
After he was drafted by the Blue Jackets in the sixth round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Atkinson attended Boston College. He took the NCAA by storm, collecting consecutive 30 goal seasons and winning a national championship as a sophomore on the same team as his brother Tommy.
"You always look up to your big brother. Playing with his friends pushed me to play at that level and be one of the best players," Atkinson said.
During his five NHL seasons, Atkinson's slight stature was a challenge he overcame thanks to his skating speed and soft touch in front in front of the net. He emerged as the Blue Jackets' leading scorer in 2015-16 with career highs in goals (25) and points (46) while making incremental improvements each year.
"I use my size to my advantage to get low to the puck and avoid defenders," he said. "I also do explosive work and get bigger and stronger every year."
Thanks to his makeup, background, and tireless work ethic, Atkinson uses his challenges to his advantage, coming up big as one of the top hockey players produced in Connecticut.
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