We’ll get this out of the way first. Alex Killorn graduated from Harvard. Even the most casual NHL fans have heard or read this fun fact at some point. Yes, he is an Ivy Leaguer. This particular line in Killorn’s resume seems to get more ink, more notice and certainly more mention when anyone talks about the Tampa Bay Lightning forward.
But Killorn is so much more than this trivial item, especially to his teammates and coaching staff. You see, Killorn is the kind of player that you can put in the lineup game in and game out and you’ll know he’ll deliver his usual consistent play.
— Tyler Moore (@TheRevTy) June 2, 2016
Just how consistent can he be? Killorn has played in three full seasons with the Lightning and has scored 17, 15, and 14 goals in those three years. You want more? How about looking at his assists? Over the last three years, he has 24, 23, and 26 assists.
Coach Jon Cooper has lined up Killorn with Steven Stamkos on the top line as well as with Valtteri Filppula on the third line. Killorn has played a bit with two of Tampa’s Triplet’s line at times. Yet whoever he lines up with or doesn’t line up with, Killorn is as dependable offensively as any coach would love. Pencil him in the lineup anywhere and Killorn will deliver.
Blue Collar Man with Skills
He is not the sniper that Stamkos or Nikita Kucherov are but NHL goalies know Killorn has a tenacity in front of their nets that generate scoring chances. NHL defenders work hard to try to keep up with Killorn’s speed. He isn’t Tyler Johnson fast but if he gets a step on you, Killorn has the chops to put a little fear in your goalie.
— Best NHL Moments (@30SecNHL) May 30, 2016
The aspect of his game that seems to get overlooked is his postseason play. Maybe it is because the Lightning have gone to the conference finals in each of the last two years and the Stanley Cup Final two years ago. That much playoff experience builds confidence. In the playoffs, Killorn raises his point per game production from .50 per game to .70 per game. When it counts, when seasons are on the line, Killorn raises his performance up a notch. You gotta love that reliability.
You didn’t have to go to Harvard to know that the postseason is the real season. The games that matter, but we all know players who shrink a bit or struggle during the playoffs. Killorn steps it up a notch or three. Smart and tough.
As a restricted free agent, Killorn received a qualifying offer from Tampa earlier this week. The team still has to sign him to a deal with limited cap dollars and whether there will be enough for Killorn is still to be determined. Coming off a contract with a cap hit of $2.55 million, the thought centers around $3.0 to $3.5 million to sign Killorn.
Unfortunately, Lightning GM, Steve Yzerman has a couple higher priorities. The Stamkos question must be answered and Nikita Kucherov must be locked up. It appears that Yzerman is going to trade a goalie. The dust has to settle on these players before Killorn’s deal can be cemented.
The fear is that Killorn gets lost in the shuffling madness that has Yzerman’s focus. That is not to say that Yzerman will ignore Killorn but even the best multi-tasker has to have a priority list. Killorn could occupy the four spot but Stammer, Kuch and Bish are 1, 2, and 3 on that list.
As a realist, you know that something has to give. Whether Stamkos says adios or Bishop is traded, there is something lurking around the corner. If it is at all possible, the Lightning needs to sign Killorn. At 26-years-old, Killorn is coming into the prime of his career.
Put together the consistency of his play with the fact that the next four or five years are most likely the best of his career and the importance of signing left wing Killorn is magnified. Then look at his playoff production and with the Lightning being a playoff team and Cup contender the last two years, it feels like fate to lock up Killorn. Yet this isn’t a done deal. Other things have to fall in line.
While the depth of the Lightning organization is seen as a strength, it would appear that left wing is the position that is the team’s thinnest. If Killorn moves on to another team, the Lightning will still have Ondrej Palat, Jonathan Drouin and Cedric Paquette. Killorn fills out that group nicely but they seem thin without him.
Sure the team will carry on should he go elsewhere but they are better with Killorn. He’s smart (insert Harvard line here), he can score, he’s physical and plays a 200-foot game. He does that all, perhaps not to superstar levels but he does it as consistently as any team would want.
Every NHL team wants a brick wall in net. They all want a world-class sniper. They all want a strong defensive pair. These are things they want if they want to compete. All teams have wants but this is about need.
All NHL teams need guys like Killorn. He guts it out every game. He’ll score a point here and a point there and play a strong overall game. He can play top line minutes or strong minutes on any other line with a revolving door of linemates.
He kicks it up in the postseason when seasons are on the line. Wouldn’t surprise me to know that Killorn actually brings a lunch pail to Amalie Arena every game. He’s that dependable. Punching in before the game and punching out at the end of sixty minutes, consistent to the end.