By BOB YORK —
Sam Lafferty ’14 will never, ever forget Saturday, June 28, 2014. That’s the day a single phone call instantaneously turned two of his lifetime dreams into reality. On the other end of the conversation was Jason Botterill, the associate general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins, informing Lafferty that the team had just selected him in the National Hockey League Draft.
Lafferty, graduated from Deerfield Academy in May, and is a native of Holidaysburg, PA, which is located about an hour-and-a-half east of Pittsburgh. “You couldn’t have dreamed this up any better,” exclaimed Lafferty, who played youth hockey for the Altoona Trackers of the Pittsburgh Amateur Hockey League. “I grew up dreaming of playing in the NHL and playing for the Pittsburgh Penguins.”
Now, those childhood dreams may well become a reality–but not right away. The next five hockey seasons for the former Big Green standout are already spoken for, and none of them include skating for the Penguins. The 6-0, 175-pound center/left wing, who Pittsburgh took with its fourth-round (113th overall) pick of the draft, is scheduled to spend the 2014-15 season with Tri-City of the United States Hockey League. From there, Lafferty is scheduled to spend the next four seasons skating for Brown University.
“To be honest, I really had no expectations heading into the draft,” said Lafferty. “I knew there was a chance I would be drafted, but I didn’t want to put any pressure on myself by feeling as though I had to be selected by a certain point in the draft. I just wanted to enjoy the day.
“I felt I had an outside chance of being selected in the fifth round,” added Lafferty, “but figured more than likely I’d go in the sixth or seventh rounds. I certainly never thought I’d go in the fourth, however, that was much earlier than expected. And then to be selected by the hometown team … I’m still trying to wrap my head around it all.”
Being selected with the 113th pick of the draft was a bit higher than Brendan Creagh, Lafferty’s coach at Deerfield, thought his former charge would be selected at as well, but at the same time, having tutored Lafferty for the past three years, Creagh wasn’t surprised in the least.
“Teams base their draft selections on talent … but not on talent alone,” said Creagh. “I had conversations with a number of NHL teams over the past few months about Sam and there were a number of aspects of his game that they liked in addition to his talent.
“One aspect of his game that set him apart from many other players was the fact that during his three years at Deerfield, he improved all facets of his game all three years he was here,” added Creagh, “and professional teams like that in a prospect. They like to see a player continuously raise his game rather than start off strong and then remain at that same level of play.
“In addition to being an outstanding hockey player, Sam’s a terrific leader and most importantly, he’s a great young man,” continued Creagh. “Plus, he has a tremendous work ethic … no one will outwork him on the ice or in the training room. ”
“I can’t afford to not work hard,” was Lafferty’s response to Creagh’s compliment, which also might have shed some light on just why his skates always seem stuck in overdrive. “I don’t have enough God-given ability not to.”
It’s obvious, however, that the Penguins had no problem with the ability level Lafferty exhibited at Deerfield, especially the numbers he put forth during his senior campaign. In just 25 games, he led the Big Green in scoring with 55 points on 21 goals and 34 assists. The Penguins weren’t the only organization impressed with Lafferty’s hockey histrionics, though. He received the ultimate pat on the back when the New England Prep School Athletic Council named him to its 2014 Boys Ice Hockey All-New England Team.
“Being named to the NEPSAC All-Star Team is quite an accomplishment,” said Creagh. “There are 60 prep school hockey teams throughout the New England area and so you can just imagine how many hockey players that would include. (Deerfield’s roster featured 24 players this past season, so figure on close to 1,500).
“Then,” added Creagh, who pointed out that no coach could vote for his own player, “of that number, they select only 12 players … six representing the East and six representing the West … now that’s a tremendous honor, and Sam was well deserving of it.”
Being named to the NEPSAC All-Star Team puts Lafferty in an elite fraternity of Deerfield hockey players that includes the likes of Ben Lovejoy, Alex Kilorn, Antoine Laganiere, Tyler Kolarik and Rob Fried.
Despite playing only three years at Deerfield, Lafferty nearly earned his way into another of the school’s elite hockey fraternities, as well, when his career scoring stats just missed the 100-point plateau. During his days at Deerfield, he chalked up 95 points on 38 goals and 57 assists.
“I couldn’t have done this without Coach Creagh, his staff and all the teammates I feel so fortunate to have been able to play along side over the past three years,” said an appreciative Lafferty. “I really want to thank Coach Creagh for all the support he gave me. He helped me develop my game and played a big part in getting me to where I am today.”