This spring, thousands of young adults in the United States have been rewarded for many years of hard study by graduating with a college degree.
For most, their college graduation signals their transition from childhood to adulthood, with the time immediately after graduation being reserved for a job hunt with which they’ll pursue their dream career.
For Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Alex Killorn, a May 24 graduate of Harvard University with a degree in government, his post-college life has gotten off to a rollicking start, as he’s just two wins away from being a Calder Cup champion just days after graduating one of America’s premier educational institutions.
“If you told me last year that I’d be in the Calder Cup Finals with the Norfolk Admirals right now, I probably wouldn’t have believed you,” Killorn said. “But I’m just trying to take it day by day. So far, it’s been fun.”
It isn’t very difficult to see why Killorn would be having so much fun at this juncture of his life, since fulfilling most of his educational requirements at Harvard earlier this winter enabled him to turn pro and join the Norfolk Admirals in March as they were in the midst of a winning streak that would reach 28 games at the regular season’s conclusion, making it at least 10 games longer than any other winning streak in any league in 108 years of professional hockey.
The Admirals have followed their record-breaking winning streak by winning 13 of their first 16 playoff games, holding a 2-0 final-round series advantage over the Toronto Marlies after eliminating the Manchester Monarchs, Connecticut Whale and St. John’s IceCaps in the first three rounds.
And Killorn has hardly been a passenger on the Admirals’ postseason drive either, as his 11 postseason points (3g, 8a) are second among all AHL rookies, only trailing a Matt Frattin of the Toronto Marlies that spent much of this past season in the NHL while Killorn was still playing collegiately.
“Killorn has been a top player in an Ivy League school for four years,” said Admirals head coach Jon Cooper. “It’s hard for a lot of junior and college guys who have never played at this level to walk in and be a great player right away. But Killorn is just a bit older and stronger. It only took him 10 or 15 games for the game to basically slow down for him, which means he’s really adapting. He’s been a pivotal player for us.”
Killorn’s great strength doesn’t necessarily show itself in the form of fights or thunderous hits; rather, for Killorn, a 6-foot-1, 195-pound Nova Scotia native that’s equally adept at playing all three forward positions, his strength is most apparent on the forecheck, from where he generates most of his offensive chances by seemingly effortlessly shoving larger defensemen off pucks.
Actually, since Killorn’s advanced level of strength has seemed to make his adjustment to pro hockey look so easy at times, it’s quite possible that the most challenging task he’s had to face in his life lately was fitting his college graduation into his busy hockey schedule.
After all, the Admirals’ schedule originally dictated that they’d be over 1,000 miles from Cambridge, Mass. at the time of Harvard’s graduation, leaving Killorn’s ability to actually attend his graduation in doubt down to the very last minute.
In the end, what turned out to be the thing to guarantee that Killorn would be able to attend his graduation was the great haste with which the Admirals swept the St. John’s IceCaps in the Eastern Conference Finals, since Killorn’s graduation was originally scheduled for an off day between Game 4 and what would have been a Game 5 of Norfolk’s third-round series.
But since the Admirals sweeping the IceCaps enabled the Eastern Conference Finals to conclude early on May 22, Killorn was able to separately fly out of Newfoundland & Labrador to Boston ahead of his teammates and not have to worry about hanging around for another four days to play an extra game in St. John’s.
“I was going to try and make it to my graduation either way,” said Killorn. “Obviously, the sweep made everything a whole lot easier. The only thing was that I really didn’t have a lot of family at my graduation, since nobody knew until the last second if I was actually going to be able to make it.”
But Killorn made it to Harvard’s graduation, where commencement speakers included Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg, actors Mark Wahlberg and Nicolas Cage, and comedian Andy Samberg.
“You put in so much effort by working hard in class,” said Killorn. “And to be able to celebrate a degree with your buddies after ending a chapter of your life is very exciting.”
Alex Killorn and teammates look on from the bench during Game 1 of the Calder Cup Finals. (Photo by John Wright/Norfolk Admirals)
But in terms of pure excitement, it will be hard for any 2012 Harvard graduates to be able to duplicate the level of instantaneous excitement that Killorn has experienced, given that the Admirals’ next game will be the first championship-series game of any pro-hockey league played in the hockey-crazy city of Toronto in five decades.
“I don’t know if anybody I know is doing anything quite like this,” said Killorn. “For me, a lot of my friends are hockey players who are trying to figure out what the next steps for their playing careers are. I do know another guy, though, that is trying to invent this heart-rate monitor that seems pretty cool.”
While Killorn playing in the Calder Cup Finals and probably having the chance to push for an NHL roster spot next fall are certainly things that put him ahead of most of his classmates immediately after college, the 2007 Tampa Bay draft pick knows that he’s going to have to accomplish an awful lot as a hockey player to stay ahead of a group of peers that in all reality, will probably be America’s leaders much sooner rather than later.
“Score 800 goals,” joked Killorn. “Yeah, somebody from my class will probably do something to pass me by at some point.”
But until someone passes him, Killorn is just going to enjoy truly being the head of his class.