As another disappointing NHL season winds down, the Lightning are looking for encouraging signs.

Alex Killorn comes quickly to mind.

When new Lightning coach Jon Cooper talks about his 23-year-old rookie forward, he can't help but smile.

The playoff chase appears to be a lost cause with only five games remaining, as Tampa Bay lurches into Montreal for tonight's matchup, but Killorn is giving management, coaches and teammates reason to believe in a brighter future.

“It's all up to Alex now,” Cooper said. “He's a can't-miss in my eyes.”

Despite playing only 33 games, Killorn is tied for ninth among NHL rookies with 18 points. The former Ivy Leaguer averages 21 shifts and 17:05 of ice time, displaying his versatility in a variety of roles.

“Alex is one of those guys who does it all,” said Tyler Johnson, who played with Killorn at Syracuse last season and was re-assigned from the Lightning back to the minors last week. “He's got a big body, he likes to use it and he's good in the corners.”

Killorn has put his Harvard education to good use, analyzing on-ice situations and making rapid adjustments.

That doesn't mean he's immune to rookie mistakes, however.

In last week's 6-3 home loss to Pittsburgh, Killorn's turnover in the neutral zone led to a back-breaking goal by the Penguins.

After the game, Lightning veteran Marty St. Louis spent a few minutes in the locker room with Killorn, going over the play in detail.

Having won only 11 of 28 draws, faceoffs are one facet of the game Killorn will work on extensively this summer in Montreal, where he lives 10 minutes away from teammate Vinny Lecavalier.

“I want to be a dependable two-way player and chip in offensively,” Killorn said. “There's a huge jump in skill at the NHL level. You need patience up here. For example, on the penalty kill in the AHL, you go after a guy aggressively because you don't think he can make a play. Here, you've got to be more wary. They will burn you if you get too eager.”