In 2013-14, forward Alex Killorn was one of several Tampa Bay Lightning players who found their game and helped the team overcome a tumultuous season to post the third-best record in the Eastern Conference. Entering his third season, Killorn is now tasked with building on that success.
If Killorn, who turns 25 on Sept. 14, improves his possession play and continues to develop, the Lightning could be an even more challenging matchup.
Killorn emerged last season with 17 goals and 41 points in 82 games, and ranked second on the Lightning behind Tyler Johnson with 173 shots.
"He's one of our top players," Lightning associate coach Rick Bowness said. "As we move forward he's a big part of our team. [With] that much size and skill and hockey sense, you're going to play in this League a long time. He's a key member of our forward group."
At 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, Killorn showed he was more than just a big body. Like most of his teammates, he struggled in Tampa Bay's four-game loss against the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. However, he had a strong effort in Game 1 when he scored a goal and set up another in the third period to help Tampa Bay come back from two deficits in the final period before the Lightning lost in overtime.
It was the latest demonstration of Killorn's chemistry with teammate Steven Stamkos; the Montreal native should earn time alongside the Lightning captain on the top line this season.
But Killorn didn't need to play exclusively with Stamkos to have success. He was just as good on a line with veterans Ryan Callahan and Valtteri Filppula as he was with rookies Johnson and Nikita Kucherov.
"For our team there was a lot of adapting through the season, with losing [Stamkos to a broken leg Nov. 11] and losing [St. Louis in a trade in March] and guys changing their roles. That can be applied to changing your linemates," Killorn said. "It seemed like everyone clicked together at certain times. When they didn't, they were put on a different line and started clicking again."
Killorn took off in December with a run of nine goals and 20 points in 30 games. That stretch earned him a place on a line with Stamkos when he returned from injury March 6. The line really came together when Johnson was placed with them.
SOG: 173 | +/-: 8
The third-round pick (No. 77) in the 2007 NHL Draft signed a two-year extension with Tampa Bay in June, and he's expected to be a big part of the Lightning attack in 2014-15.
"You don't want to get too comfortable," Killorn said. "I know we had a good season last year, but we expected a lot more in the playoffs. We still have a bit of a bad taste in our mouths about that."