You don’t score on 100 percent of the shots that you don’t take.
The phrase is often coach speak in hockey, urging a team to stop being too fancy and get the puck to the net. Alex Killorn didn’t have to be told that when he joined the Lightning, and he already has a big example why.
Killorn jumped on a poor clearing pass by Toronto last Tuesday out near the left point. With no open teammate to spring, the left wing turned and whipped a shot at the Leafs net. The puck bounced, scooted under Toronto goalie Ben Scrivens left arm and squirted over the goal line.
“Some guys wouldn’t shoot that,” Killorn said. “They don’t think it was that good a chance, and I don’t really think it was a good chance either. But I just put it on net and it went in.”
This is nothing new for Killorn, a third-round pick of the Lightning in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. The 23-year-old with a Harvard degree had 166 shots on goal, still 15 more than any other player for the Syracuse Crunch through Thursday despite being with the Lightning for almost two weeks. He produced 16 goals and recorded 22 assists in 44 games with the Lightning’s American Hockey League affiliate before being recalled on February 9.
Killorn has two goals and two assists in seven games since coming to Tampa Bay and his versatile play has earned him a spot on the third line with Nate Thompson and Tom Pyatt the last few games. His behind the back pass from below the goal line set up a wide-open Pyatt in front for a goal at Carolina on Saturday.
“He’s a very smart person and a very smart player,” Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. “It gives him the capability to learn extremely fast and acquire things quickly. He doesn’t make many mistakes. That’s big. That makes me want to put him on the ice.”
The Killorn-Thompson-Pyatt trio played a lot against Toronto’s top line and gave them little in a 4-2 victory. Pyatt said Killorn thinks the game well and is always in the right position.
Alex Killorn following his first NHL goal, scored on February 16th versus the Panthers
“He’s been great,” Thompson said of Killorn. “He’s simple with the puck, he makes the right play, he’s good defensively and he can skate. First and foremost, we want to play good defense. But we’ve been getting our chances.”
Killorn has made a seamless transition to the NHL by being patient and soaking up experience at every turn. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound left shot didn’t need to change his style to adapt to the Lightning’s system.
Through four years at Harvard, Killorn watched some of his teammates and other players leave early. Some felt pressure from organizations and others were anxious to start their professional careers. He decided to stay for four years, improve each season and learn to deal with different situations.
Killorn said Lightning vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman was great with him throughout, allowing him to make the call.
“Being in that situation put me more at ease and gave me a lot of confidence going into my senior year,” Killorn said. “Other players might have done well at first, but you want to look more at the long run and what’s good for you.”
Killorn posted 23 goals and 46 points in 34 games his senior season at Harvard before signing with Tampa Bay and joining the Norfolk Admirals in their run toward the Calder Cup.
In 17 postseason games for Norfolk, Killorn registered three goals and 12 points. Killorn went in with the mindset to take advantage of the opportunity and help out the team any way he could.
“Being a harder level of hockey, there was a lot of things I had to adjust to,” Killorn said. “Luckily, I was able to do that fairly quickly and coach [Jon Cooper] gained confidence in me and played me in different situations. Because of that I think I was able to make the jump.
“There are certain stages that help you prepare for the NHL game. Playing in Toronto in the Calder Cup finals was an NHL-like atmosphere.”
Without a regular NHL training camp this season due to the NHL lockout, Killorn didn’t get a chance to make the Lightning and was not called in when practices started in January. He just went back to work for Syracuse.
“I worked on my strength, protecting the puck and being strong on the puck in the offensive zone,” Killorn said. “I concentrated on being at the net more. That’s where most of the goals happen.”
Killorn wasn’t sure when the call would come.
“You never know what’s going to happen,” Killorn said. “I just tried to play every game as if I would be called up.”
Killorn earned an assist on Vincent Lecavalier’s goal in his NHL debut at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers. His first goal came against the Florida Panthers last Saturday, taking a pass from Matt Carle and wristing a shot past Jose Theodore. Lecavalier and Theodore are both products of the Montreal area where Killorn grew up.
He is here. Now Killorn’s focus is to stay.
“This isn’t a developmental league,” Boucher said. “The guys have to be ready when they come up. If they’re ready, I’ll put them in there. If they do the job, they play, and he’s playing.
“He’s one of those guys that is steady. You can use them. The more you use him, he gains experience faster and you get results. That’s what’s happening.”