In spite of a few impressive stints with the top guns of the Tampa Bay Lightning in his first two seasons with the club, Alex Killorn might not top out as a legitimate first-line scoring forward.
That's okay, though, because over the course of 120 NHL regular season games played, Killorn has developed nicely into a strong complementary winger capable of driving play and chipping in secondary scoring on one of the middle two lines.
Here's how the panel ranked Killorn following the 2013-14 campaign:
|Kyle Alexander||John Fontana||Clare Austin||Mike Gallimore||Clark Brooks|
Last Year's Rank: 3
While the elite offensive talents are the player types that grab headlines, Alex Killorn has very quietly become a very useful and versatile forward for the Lightning; he's strong around the net and in the corners, adept with the puck on his stick through the neutral zone, and is capable of both setting up and finishing scoring chances in the offensive third. He doesn't have a truly elite shot or dynamic, gamebreaking playmaking ability, but his straight-ahead style and puck retrieval skills meshed well with his most common linemates from last year, Valtteri Filppula and Teddy Purcell.
Killorn also is, essentially, the epitome of a popular concept in hockey analytics based on the idea of league equivalencies. This idea goes way back and there's a lot of calculation involved, but the basic idea is a guy who scores about a point-per-game in the AHL will score about a half-point-per-game in the NHL, as it's a tougher league. Killorn's career numbers follow that trend quite nicely:
He's not blowing anybody away in the NHL, and he'll likely never score 70 points, but the Lightning are getting good outcomes when he's on the ice, which is really all you can ask from the middle of your forward lineup.
Killorn represents the type of complementary player you need in the NHL -- while Valtteri Filppula undoubtedly had a very strong first campaign in a Lightning sweater, at least some of his success can be attributed to strong play on his left wing from Alex Killorn, who continues to be a plus possession player that scores a point just about every other game. That's near ideal production for a middle six forward on a very team friendly contract (signed as a RFA earlier this summer).
Moving forward, the Lightning likely have to shuffle up and deal their entire nightly forward lineup; predicting line combinations is often a frivolous exercise, but it might be especially so in the case of Killorn. He could legitimately end up on any of the top-three lines, next to the expected three centers of Steven Stamkos, Valtteri Filppula, and Tyler Johnson. Sticking with Filppula to keep that successful line together probably is the most likely outcome, but playing on the top unit with Stamkos is something Killorn has done with success before -- and where guys like Jonathan Drouin (who might play left wing) and Tyler Johnson (who has primarily played center, but was moved to right wing) slot into the lineup certainly will affect where Killorn ends up.
Even if he does remain with Filppula, they'll have a new face on their right wing with Teddy Purcell traded to Edmonton in a salary dump that opened space for guys like Anton Stralman, Brian Boyle, and Brenden Morrow. Training camp will no doubt be the place were all this is sorted out, but wherever he ends up, that line will have a responsible, capable two-way forward on the left side.