NEW YORK — Alex Killorn's road to the NHL has not been typical, and it has been long but no less satisfying.
It has been almost six years since the Lightning forward, called up Sunday from AHL Syracuse, was taken 77th overall in the 2007 draft, after which he spent four years at Harvard and parts of two seasons in the minors.
"Education was important to me and my family," said Killorn, who graduated with a government degree, before the game.
Killorn, 23, also called himself a "late bloomer," and said the time at school gave his body a chance to develop. Now 6 feet 1, 202 pounds, the Lightning hopes Killorn infuses size and strength into a lineup that features Marty St. Louis (5-7), Cory Conacher (5-8), Tom Pyatt (5-11) and, before he was reassigned to Syracuse, Dana Tyrell (5-11).
"He's a big body that protects the puck extremely well," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "He skates, and he's got a great shot and is extremely smart."
Conacher, who played with Killorn in Syracuse, compared him to Rangers 6-4, 216-pound LW Rick Nash, "a guy that's big and has so much skill and speed and a wicked shot. He's going to help this team and stick around in the league for a long time."
If Sunday's game was an indication, Killorn, who had 16 goals and 38 points in 41 games for Syracuse, has a chance. He got his first point with a secondary assist on C Vinny Lecavalier's goal when his shot got the Rangers scrambling. He was on the power play and in front of the net, and he played on a line with Lecavalier and Teddy Purcell. He finished with two shots in 13:17 of ice time.
Killorn's debut was seen by his parents, who delayed a trip to Puerto Rico; an aunt, an uncle and friends from Harvard and home in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
"It's exciting to see it all happen like this," he said. Especially considering Killorn, when he was at Harvard and because of NCAA rules, paid his way to the Lightning's summer prospect camps.
"It shows character," Boucher said. "You don't necessarily follow everybody's route, and you make your own way."
"It was a lot of nervous energy at the beginning," Killorn said after the game. "I didn't want to make too many mistakes. But after that, I got a little more comfortable. It was a great experience; my first game, my first point."
WAKEUP CALL: Killorn got the news he was being called up by Syracuse GM Julien BriseBois, who woke him from a pregame nap with this: "He asked me if I was ready to come help Tampa beat the Rangers," Killorn said.
APOLOGIES: Conacher on Saturday created a stir when he posted on Twitter a simple "good luck" to former Syracuse teammate Brett Connolly. That started rumors Connolly was being called up to Tampa Bay or traded. But Conacher on Sunday said the tweet was an inside joke with his former Crunch roommate. "I retweeted and tried to ease the pain of some of the fans a little bit," Conacher said.
ODDS AND ENDS: Killorn wore No. 17. … The Lightning went 0-for-2 on the power play, dropping it to 1-for-19 on the road. … F Nate Thompson was minus-4 in only 13:12 of ice time. … With LW Ryan Malone out (lower body), Pierre-Cedric Labrie was in. … D Brian Lee, who entered a team-worst minus-7, played after sitting Thursday and was minus-1. … D Marc-Andre Bergeron and D Brendan Mikkelson were scratched.