While some prospects often find themselves on the fast track to NHL stardom, Alex Killorn opted for the equivalent of a more scenic route.

The 23-year-old forward made his NHL debut at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, picking up an assist in Tampa Bay's only goal in a 5-1 loss to the New York Rangers. Killorn's first game in the NHL came four months shy of six years since he was drafted by the Lightning organization.

Tampa Bay has gone through two ownership changes, used three different general managers and four different head coaches since Killorn was selected with the 77th overall pick out of Deerfield Prep Academy in Massachusetts at the 2007 draft. Killorn, meanwhile, played one more year at Deerfield before moving on to Harvard where he played out all four years of eligibility and received his undergraduate degree in government/politics before embarking on a professional playing career.

That route, rather than trying to make the rise quicker up the hockey ranks by leaving school early or playing junior hockey, was the right decision all along for Killorn.

"Education was very important to me and my family,'' said Killorn, who will make his home debut Tuesday against Montreal. "That route seemed to work perfectly for me and I'm just happy that it has all worked out.''

The time also allowed Killorn to grow from a skinny 6-foot, 160-pound teenager when he was drafted into his current 6-foot-2, 205 pounds listed on the team's official website.

But the skill set has always been there as by the time he was a senior at Harvard, he became the first Crimson player to score 50 career goals since 2004. After getting his degree in the spring of 2012, Killorn joined the Lightning organization on a tryout contract for the remainder of the season, helping Norfolk – Tampa Bay's AHL affiliate last season – to a championship run before signing a two-year contract.

In 44 games with Syracuse, the Lightning's AHL affiliate this season, Killorn had 16 goals and 38 points before getting the call to make his NHL debut. Judging by his first career game, it won't be his last.