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Alex Killorn: The road less traveled

by Mark Pukalo / Tampa Bay Lightning
Alex Killorn had two good options in front of him a year ago.

There was a contract he could sign to start his professional career with the Lightning. There was also one more year of development he could use with a promising college hockey team and a Harvard degree he could earn.

Killorn spent plenty of time in thought, weighing both sides. He ultimately chose the road less traveled and there were very few bumps along the way.

“It seems like I couldn’t have scripted it any better than what happened,” said Killorn, who scored 46 of his 109 career points this season. “Our team played real well, we made a good run and I think I definitely improved as a player. I am really happy with my decision.”

Killorn recorded 23 goals – nine on the best power play in the nation – and 23 assists, and was named a first-team all star by the ECAC. The only change Killorn would have liked in his super senior season is one more victory for the Crimson in the ECAC playoffs. Harvard lost to Union in the ECAC title game for a spot in the NCAA tournament.

Two days after the season, the Lightning signed Killorn to a two-year, entry-level contract -- which begins next season. He joined the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League on a tryout contract Wednesday.

Killorn, 22, who needs only to hand in a few papers to finish his degree as a government major, has met a lot of the players on the AHL’s best team from Lightning prospect camps and has known defenseman Mark Barberio a long time.

“It’s been a pretty easy transition,” Killorn said, after his first practice. “I just want to add on to what’s already a great team.”

Killorn was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but his family moved to Beaconsfield – just outside Montreal – when he was about a year old. The Lightning drafted him out of Deerfield Academy Preparatory School in Massachusetts when he was 6-0, 161 pounds. He is 6-2, 207 today.

Steve Thomas, the Lightning’s player development consultant, said the type of physical growth he has shown is common for college players who play fewer games than their major junior counterparts. There is more time in between games to improve in the weight room.

Thomas has been impressed by Killorn’s steady progress on the ice as well.

“I see a guy that is ready to make the jump to the professional ranks,” Thomas said. “He’s a big, strong kid who can really shoot the puck. He goes out and makes a difference every night for his team.”

The next step won’t be easy.

“It’s a huge jump,” Thomas said. “It’s going to take him a little time to acclimate to that. But he’s a mature kid and he’s shown he can be a leader.”

Killorn didn’t use his final season of college eligibility just to put up big numbers. He worked on rounding out his game.

Not only did Harvard coach Ted Donato play his assistant captain more when the Crimson needed goals, he put him on the penalty kill and in end-of-the-game situations. Killorn wasn’t only taking shots, he was diving in front of them.

Alex Killorn finished his senior season at Harvard by leading his team with 23 goals and 46 points.
“[Donato] talked to me at the beginning of the season about focusing on my defensive awareness,” Killorn said. “He said if you want to play at the next level, you can’t just be an offensive player. The whole year I’ve been working on that and I think I’ve improved. … I think I’m more confident because of the situations I’ve been put in this season.”

Killorn has also attended the Lightning’s prospect camp for five-straight summers and said he has picked up several things each year that have benefited him, from weight training to diet. He has also stepped up his off-ice training in the summer.

The feedback he has gotten from the Lightning has also been helpful.

“They’ve been really positive with me and I have had a lot of dialogue with them,” Killorn said. “They’ve told me to keep doing what I’m doing. You can always get stronger, work on your play away from the puck and that’s what I’m focusing on.”

Lightning rookie Brett Connolly was Killorn’s roommate at prospects camp in Brandon last July.

“He’s a smart hockey player and he’s got one the best shots, releases, I’ve ever seen,” Connolly said. “He’s strong on the puck and has great hockey sense.”

Killorn is eligible to play for Norfolk in the playoffs. He intends to get as much out of the experience in Virginia as he can and then focus on training camp in September.

After a great season at Harvard, the NHL is a lot closer for him.

“It becomes more real every day,” Killorn said. “It’s a dream, but I understand it’s also a tough road. You have to make sure you’re well prepared to do the best job you can.”

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