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Traverse City Tournament (Kaapo v. Elvis) and Comparing Cam to Rick

August 30, 2019, 11:01 AM ET [4 Comments]
Thomas Townsend
Columbus Blue Jackets Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Early next month NHL prospects from 8 teams will converge on Traverse City for the annual "Prospect Tournament". NHL teams represented include DET, TOR, NYR, CHI, CBJ, MIN, DAL and STL. Young up-and-comers such as Kirby Dach (CHI) and Kaapo Kakko will be present and accounted for.

The Jackets will take prospects Liam Foudy, Alexander Texier, Andrew Peeke, Trey Fix-Wolansky and goalies Veini Vehvilainen and Elvis Merzlikins. While these may or may not be familiar names to the CBJ faithful, most in attendance will know Elvis Merklikins. His participation at the international level and much anticipated move to North America has drawn league-wide interest. This will be the first time for him to showcase his skills against NHL-ish talent. It will be a good opportunity for the CBJ front office to evaluate his transition to the league and could provide early indications of how much he will be relied upon this season. It doesn't hurt that he will likely match up against Kaapo Kakko in the first game.

For the Jackets the tournament starts on Friday, September 6 vs. the New York Rangers. Saturday they will face Minnesota followed by Dallas on Monday. The elimination portion will begin on Tuesday. Columbus has won the tournament 5 times including last year.

Is Cam the best Blue Jacket ever?

The existence of the Blue Jackets has been short and not very storied. Most outside of Columbus would reach the conclusion that Rick Nash is the greatest player to have played in the franchise's existence. He holds CBJ records for Games (674), Goals, (289), PPG (83), SHG (14), GWG (44), Assists (258), Points (547), Shots on Goal (2,278) and Time on Ice (12,734). But Cam is the active leader for games (527), goals (186), PPG (38), SHG (12), GWG (38), Hat Tricks (6 and is the all time CBJ leader), Points (342) and Shots on Goal (1,577).

Rick Nash played 9 seasons in the Union Blue while Atkinson has skated 8, this will be his 9th. Cam will not match Rick's games played this season, but likely next. And without huge scoring output over the next two or three seasons amassing enough goals, assists and points seems unlikely to happen until he nears the end of his contract in 2024. However, we could see him take the lead in Short Handed Goals (he trails only by 2) and Game Winning Goals (only back 6).

Arguments can be made that Rick was the only talent on the team when he played and that other teams could focus on him because the rest of the team wasn't going to beat them. Cam has had a better surround cast (Panarin for example) and overall better teams. Rick was the leader and shouldered the burden of being the captain, while Cam is one of many leaders on this team and isn't the sole focus, so he plays under less pressure.

Here is one thing that is undeniable about Cam's time here in Columbus. He has seen as many playoff years as Nash did games. Nash only played in the post season one season, being swept out of the playoffs by the Red Wings and scoring one goal with two assists in those four games. In contrast Cam has appeared in 27 games totaling 18 points for Columbus.

Cam endears himself to the fans. He owns a business here. Appearances and accessibility to him as a face of the Blue Jackets are much more frequent.

Rick has come back to where his pro career started and been welcomed back with open arms by the Columbus hockey community. He fought his hardest to make Columbus a relevant hockey town and paved the way for the current iteration of the Jackets to be successful. But winning matters. And when it is time to hang up the skates, it is likely that Cam will hold many CBJ career records, have lead the team through the playoffs for a majority of his career and with any luck, only donned the Union Blue during his career. Obviously there are things that could change, such as injury or a trade, but given his current trajectory we are currently witnessing the play of the best hockey player to come through Columbus.

Thanks for reading.
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