Philadelphia Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher wasn’t shy about making moves this past offseason to change up “the mix” of his team, and just two games in the returns on his big forward addition — Cam Atkinson — have been fruitful.
Atkinson, acquired straight-up for Jakub Voracek in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets, has a goal and a primary assist in two games already, but his impact on the Flyers goes deeper than that. The former 40-goal scorer’s penchant for getting pucks to the net has already started to rub off on his teammates, with the Flyers registering 62 shots on goal through two games — with Atkinson’s nine ranking only behind captain Claude Giroux’s 11 thus far.
That might not seem all that significant given the small sample size, but considering it took Giroux until his eighth game a year ago to find the same feat, perhaps his new teammate has helped stoke the fires a bit. Given the Flyers’ struggles to get pucks through to the net the past few years despite solid shot attempt numbers, it’s unlikely that Atkinson’s presence along is leading to an increase in shots on net — but it isn’t hurting that’s for sure.
Also not hurting is the fact that Atkinson’s shot totals haven’t been just for show, with a calculated shot off the pads off Seattle Kraken goalie Chris Driedger directly resulting in a slam dunk rebound for Joel Farabee in the Flyers’ 6-1 thrashing of the NHL’s newest franchise the other night.
Yandle starts it and Farabee finishes it! pic.twitter.com/Nc4MoOTzIU— Ryan Gilbert (@RGilbertSOP) October 19, 2021
Notice how Atkinson looked to his left to see where Farabee was across the ice just before flipping the puck towards the net to create at the very least another scoring chance. That’s a heady play by a veteran to create another chance for a teammate that was red-hot in preseason and already on in the scoring column to start the season.
While the Flyers undoubtedly miss the playmaking ability of Voracek, Atkinson gives the club a different dynamic to add to their forward group and helps balance out a group that trends toward distributors rather than finishers. After years of making the extra pass — and then one more — perhaps seeing Atkinson’s shoot-first mentally in practice and in game will help hedge the Flyers to follow suit.
The most ironic part is that while Atkinson is getting pucks on net, he’s inexplicably been on the wrong end of the shot attempt battle through two games to the tune of a Corsi-For of 37% at 5-on-5 per NaturalStatTrick. The 32-year-old has consistently been a plus player in terms of shot attempts at 5-on-5 with a career Corsi-For relative about 5% higher than his teammates per the same fantastic tracking service. We’d except that number to even out as the sample size expands due to Atkinson’s excellent track record — and penchant for shooting the puck after leading the Blue Jackets in shots on net in two of his past three seasons with the lone outlier being one he missed mostly due to injury.
Cam Atkinson (traded to Philadelphia) is a good 5v5 play-driver, a little underwhelming on the power-play, finishing not great. pic.twitter.com/nRD6TV6J6a— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) July 24, 2021
And even when he’s not firing rubber at opposing goaltenders, he’s a straight hound on the forecheck — a stark contrast to that of Voracek, who is up to his usual playmaking duties with a pair of assists in two games to start his second stint in Columbus. Atkinson’s hard-nosed play along the boards and in danger areas will surely keep youngsters like Farabee, Travis Konecny, Wade Allison, and others motivated to go to similar lengths to be rewarded with goals.
Cam Atkinson's first of MANY in the orange and black pic.twitter.com/IuznBGE73V— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) October 16, 2021
Even though it has only been two games, Cam Atkinson has had a positive impact on the Flyers in more ways than one, and is paying immediate dividends for Fletcher.