After a spectacular end to his rookie season with the Blue Jackets (in which he was recalled from Springfield as the AHL's top goal scorer), Atkinson began the 2012-13 season with the Falcons when the NHL lockout began. He was on the top line of a Springfield club under the direction of first year head coach Brad Larsen, and also a club that got off to a sterling start and currently leads the Northeast Division by eight points.
Ryan Johansen, Jonathan Audy-Marchessault and Atkinson started the season as the No. 1 unit but quickly dispersed on to separate lines to balance out scoring, and it only made Springfield stronger. The Falcons have one of the AHL's top offenses and with its young guys clicking right off the bat, made life easier for the defense and goaltending.
But now Atkinson is part of the Blue Jackets, and has another legitimate chance to crack the NHL roster as Training Camp presented by OhioHealth begins today at the OhioHealth Ice Haus. With 33 games already under his belt, Atkinson thinks the players recalled from Springfield have the early advantage in a compacted schedule.
Nice to read that, isn't it? Excitement and anticipation are in the air, and they've never smelled better.
Head coach Todd Richards and his staff -- including new assistants Keith Acton and Craig Hartsburg -- will take the ice for the first time Sunday for a six-day camp leading up to a 48-game regular season slate. The Blue Jackets are scheduled for 48 games in 99 days, so this week is pivotal to get everyone organized, on the same page, and ready to go when the season begins on Jan. 19.
Blue Jackets players have spent the past week or so skating on their own in the OhioHealth Ice Haus, holding "informal" practices for about an hour each day to get the legs going for training camp. It's like a bonus week for training camp for some guys, and several of the players said the additional ice time is crucial because camp is usually two to three weeks long and features roughly eight preseason games.
With exhibition games and normal ice time not an option this time around, there's going to be a quick learning curve for the team over the next week.
Alright hockey fans, the time has finally come: we're rolling out the 2012-13 Blue Jackets regular season schedule.
The National Hockey League officially released the regular season schedule for all 30 member clubs tonight after the Players' Association ratified the new collective bargaining agreement and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed off on by both parties. For the Blue Jackets, this means a 48-game schedule that spans a total of 99 days and as many have said throughout, it will be an absolute sprint from start to finish.
But that's fun, right?
Here's what Brandon Dubinsky said about the schedule this week: "And hey, 48 games is a short season and it’s like jumping right into a playoff race almost. If you get behind the eight-ball early, it might be a tough hole to climb out of. You have to try to get some wins early…we’re going to do everything in our power to make sure that’s us.”
If you thought the Western Conference playoff race was intense last year (and remember, the eighth-seeded team eventually won the Stanley Cup), I think we're going to see a whole different level in 2013. It's like packing 82 games of valuable points into 48, which leads me to believe we're going to see an extremely high quality brand of hockey every night.
Read the story for schedule highlights!
As more players joined the informal skates at the OhioHealth Ice Haus over the past week, drills became more intense and practice assumed a sense of “normalcy,” or more accurately – organized chaos.
One player who has stood out for helping to keep an organized pace on the ice is Derek Dorsett.
The 26-year-old right winger broke onto the National Hockey League scene in 2008-09 with the Blue Jackets and has developed into a leader for the team on the ice and off.
“I just try to do what I always do – play hard,” Dorsett told BlueJackets.com. “Being here over the last few years and learning from the veterans that have been here before – obviously, you become more responsible, and I feel more comfortable around the guys.”
The hard work has paid off for Dorsett, who will be a part of the Blue Jackets franchise for the forseeable future after signing a three-year contract extension with the club last May. Last season, Dorsett scored a career-high 12 goals and eight assists, and saw his ice time increase under head coach Todd Richards.
Mark Letestu joined the Blue Jackets last season at a frenetic time when nothing seemed to be going right.
Needing help at center ice and in the scoring department, Columbus dealt a fourth-round draft pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins and brought Letestu in for some added depth at forward. He jumped right into the mix and played his first game a few days later, and as the season unfolded, he became a useful cog in the lineup.
Letestu’s face-off acumen meant he was on the ice for a lot of defensive zone draws, and at times, he played the left point on the power play unit. The Blue Jackets were able to build some good vibes down the stretch, he said, but at the end of the day everyone knows there’s a clean slate when training camp begins and the past is history.
“Especially when you consider the way we ended last season, there’s a lot to be excited about here,” Letestu told BlueJackets.com. “We set some goals for ourselves down the stretch and we were able to achieve them. There’s definitely a sense of optimism in our room, and a much different atmosphere than when I arrived here last November.
“I think our guys are excited to get this thing going.”
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ryan Murray's road to recovery begins today.
Almost two months after suffering a serious shoulder injury in a game against the Victoria Royals, the Blue Jackets prospect and Everett Silvertips captain underwent successful surgery today to repair his shoulder. John Davidson told BlueJackets.com earlier this week that Murray's surgery was scheduled for one the next two Thursdays, and in fact, it took place this morning.
Murray is expected to make a full recovery after a rehabilitation period of approximately six months, Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson confirmed.
The 19-year-old defenseman was selected in the first round (second overall) of the 2012 NHL Draft at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, and appeared at the Blue Jackets' annual development camp in July. He represented Canada in the Canada-Russia Challenge in August, and also captained Team WHL in the CHL Subway Super Series in Vancouver.
He was expected to be part of Team Canada at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship in Ufa, Russia, but the shoulder injury guaranteed he would miss the remainder of this season.
While many people were peacefully sleeping on the east coast when the news of a new CBA between the NHL and NHLPA was announced, Vinny Prospal was on a bus in the Czech Republic en route to play a hockey game in the Czech town of Zlin.
He had spent the past three months playing for his hometown team, Ceske Budejovice of the Czech Elite League, but upon hearing the news, he immediately set out to return to Columbus and to the people who matter most to him – his family.
“I’m glad to be playing, but I’m more excited when the news first came out, I was excited that I get to be with my family,” said Prospal after joining some of his teammates at the OhioHealth Ice Haus for a morning skate.
Players have been skating for roughly an hour and 15 minutes for the past four mornings, and more players have joined the skates as they trickle back to Columbus to get ready for the start of the new season. Brandon Dubinsky and Mark Letestu also suited up for today’s skate in addition to Prospal, who traveled for 22 hours straight in order to get back to Columbus.
The decision to sign with Ceske Budejovice wasn’t easy for Prospal and his family, who stayed behind in Columbus. Prospal praised his wife for being supportive of his decision to continue playing in Europe, but admitted it was hard to be away from his kids for such a long time.
Within a matter of days, he had everything packed up from his place in New York and set the GPS for central Ohio eager to start the next chapter of his career. The informal player practices began at the OhioHealth Ice Haus not long after, and he started laying the foundation for a fresh start with the Blue Jackets.
Though the official start of his career in Columbus has been delayed a few months, it has done nothing to dilute Dubinsky’s anticipation for the NHL season.
“Now that it’s finally solved and we’re ready to go, it’s been really nice to get back here with the boys and skate and play,” Dubinsky told BlueJackets.com. “I’m excited in the same way I was this summer, but I’m a little more anxious now that we’ve gone through half a season and haven’t played yet.
“It’s a fresh start here. I’ve had an opportunity to spend some time here in Columbus (since the summer), and I really love the city and the people have been great.”
Because he was able to get into town early and develop relationships with his new teammates, taking part in his first informal skate today wasn’t the least bit uncomfortable. It was as if nothing had changed, Dubinsky said, other than the calendar turning a few more pages.
During the early part of the 2011-12 season, the now 25-year-old center struggled to find his way into the lineup on a consistent basis and often found himself on the club's fourth line. The team had trouble scoring goals and winning games in what concluded as a trying season on multiple fronts, but among the highlights down the stretch was Brassard's emergence as the potential top-six center they think he can be.
In the 41 games played under Richards last season, Brassard put up nine goals and 20 assists -- a healthy portion of his 41-point total in 74 games. Playing most of his minutes on the Blue Jackets' No. 1 line, he showed flashes of the playmaking and goal-scoring ability that made him a high first-round pick in 2006.
Fast forward seven years later, and Brassard knows the upcoming 2013 season is his most important one to date. With Richards retained as the full-time coach in May, Brassard figures to carry a similar role this year on a team with several talented young players.
“It’s really exciting for me," Brassard told BlueJackets.com today. "I like the way I finished the season last year, and that’s the level I want to be at. I know I can be a big part of this team, making plays and putting up some points for the boys and helping the team win."