Greenwich native, Columbus Blue Jackets forward Atkinson discusses Nash trade

The hockey world is still buzzing about yesterday’s seven-player blockbuster trade that saw Columbus Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash finally get traded to the New York Rangers.

While a lot of people in the tri-state area are thrilled with the thought of Nash wearing the Rangers sweater in the fall, at least one person knows the trade is bittersweet.

See, Greenwich native Cam Atkinson just finished up his rookie year with the Columbus Blue Jackets and got to train along side Nash during training camp and play along side Nash in the 27 games Atkinson skated in during the regular season.

Although Atkinson spent a short time along side Nash, the Columbus captain left a lasting impression on the Greenwich rookie.

“As a player, being one of the rookies, he brought me in and helped me become comfortable and get acclimated to the whole organization and what it’s like to be a Blue Jacket,” Atkinson said. “If I did something wrong, he would privately talk to me and wouldn’t ever call me out in front of everyone. He’s such a good guy and I learned a lot of good habits from him. I think I’m a better player, just by following what he did.”

Atkinson said that he immediately noticed Nash’s work ethic and dedication to the National Hockey League and the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“He’s obviously a great person and stuck to his business,” Atkinson said. “Every time he showed up to the rink he gave it his all, whether it would be in the weight room or on the ice.

Nash was the first overall selection in the 2002 NHL Draft and has basically been the face of the franchise ever since he took the stage and put on the Columbus Blue Jackets cap for the first time.

In total, Nash has 289 goals and 258 assists during his tenure with the Blue Jackets. Last year Nash didn’t let all the trade speculation deter his play on the ice, as the Columbus captain finished with 30 goals and 29 assists.

“It’s tough because he’s been a part of the Columbus organization for a long time and almost from day one he’s been the franchise player,” Atkinson said. “He’s been the best player every year and it’s hard to replace a guy like Rick Nash. I learned a lot from him this year just by being there for the 27 games that I’ve played.”

In the trade, the Rangers get Nash and a third round 2013 draft pick. In return, the Rangers sent Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov and Tim Erixon to Columbus, along with the team’s first round pick in the 2013 draft.

“Honestly, it is going to be hard to replace a guy like Nash, but we’re going to be getting some good players in return,” Atkinson said. “Opposing teams won’t be able to focus on just one player any more. It’s going to be on the whole team and that’s what is important. I think we’re going to be a hard-working team. I think the front office wants that and I know the coaches and fans want that as well.”

While Erixon will be strengthening the Blue Jacket’s defense next season, Dubinsky and Anisimov will give the Blue Jackets an added boost at the forward position.

With Atkinson also competing for ice time, he knows that improving every day is crucial for his success..

“I know they are solid forwards and will add that much more depth to our lineup,” Atkinson said. “It gives other players the chance to step up and to work that much harder.”

In 27 games with the Blue Jackets last season, Atkinson finished with seven goals and seven assists.��

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