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Hollidaysburg native Lafferty relishing his chance with Penguins

| Tuesday, July 22, 2014, 10:10 p.m.
Philip G. Pavely | Trib Total Media
Matia Marcantuoni (left) and Sam Lafferty get mixed up during the Penguins development camp scrimmage Saturday, July 19, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.

Dave Weaver normally doesn't shave his head, but it almost happened when the Penguins drafted his stepson, Sam Lafferty, in the fourth round last month.

Weaver, who doubled as his stepson's club hockey coach with the Altoona Trackers, was getting a haircut on his way to a draft party to watch Rounds 5-7 of the NHL Entry Draft when his phone rang.

“I kind of screamed a little bit,” Weaver explained. “The lady cutting my hair asked if I was all right, and I said, ‘My son just got drafted by the Penguins. You better hurry this up. I have to get going.'

“If she didn't hurry, I was going to tell her to take out a No. 1 and buzz it.”

Weaver's hair remains intact.

The same can be said for Sam Lafferty's lifelong dream of reaching the NHL.

A versatile left wing, the Hollidaysburg native plays a two-way game that's reminiscent of one of Lafferty's favorite current pros: Penguins center Brandon Sutter.

Lafferty (6-foot-1, 187 pounds) set career highs with 21 goals and 34 assists in 25 games last season for Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, Mass., the same prep school that produced former Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy and current Tampa Bay Lightning center Alex Killorn.

The 55 points Lafferty notched more than doubled his total in either of the two previous seasons.

“The biggest difference with Sam is that he used to go into battles not wanting to lose them, which is a great attitude to have,” Deerfield coach Brendan Creagh said. “But that switched to sort of expecting to win every battle.”

Lafferty will play for Tri-City of the United States Hockey League next season before playing at Brown University in 2015.

Last week, Lafferty attended the Penguins' development camp at Consol Energy Center and didn't disappoint. He scored a goal in Saturday's scrimmage, then struck again in the shootout.

Lafferty said he met with assistant general managers Bill Guerin and Tom Fitzgerald to put together “a list of seven or eight things, reminders that you can always work on with your game.”

Given Lafferty was selected 113th overall, he knows he's not quite competing for a job with the big club. Yet charting a course — something Lafferty has done throughout his career — was important to him.

“It's definitely good to get here, my first development camp, and get acquainted with things, get my feet wet,” Lafferty said. “It was good to meet with Billy Guerin and Fitzy and get a plan in place moving forward. Now I have things to work on and a foundation I can turn to and keep in mind.”

According to Weaver, who married Lafferty's mother, Jill, in 2003, Sam always has done this.

Whether it meant asking Weaver for skating lessons at age 7 or creating his own weight-training and diet programs as a teenager, Lafferty always has been enthralled with the preparation it takes to be a hockey player.

So much so that Creagh worried more about getting Lafferty to stop working out than getting him to start.

“He was doing a workout program where he was doing heavy, Olympic-style lifts, and he was doing the same lifts day after day with no rest,” Creagh said. “He had this theory that if he kept doing these full-body exercises, he wouldn't need the same recovery time.

“I was like, ‘Sam, you break down muscle in the weight room, and you need time off in order to build muscle back.' ”

Another thing that separates Lafferty from his teammates and competition is that he's a scratch golfer. He might even play the sport at Brown. Perhaps, then, it's fitting he was drafted by a team owned by Mario Lemieux.

“I think that might be fun for Sam to go out and play a round with Mario,” Weaver said.

Even if it happened, don't count on Lafferty getting worked up. It's not his style.

Lafferty was the team captain at Deerfield, even though Creagh admitted, “He doesn't carry himself like the big man on campus. He's just not that kid. He's very down to earth.”

Instead, Lafferty's the type of kid who relished the perks Creagh and his assistants afforded their captain, to pull him aside and explain why they're running certain forechecks or their reasoning behind a certain power-play structure.

That way of handling himself should serve Lafferty well at the next level.

“When I was drafted, it was surreal,” Lafferty said. “Then when I got here, I guess it sort of made the experience more real and more grounded. It's nice to see everything, get out on the ice and try to learn and get better as much as possible.”

Jason Mackey is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jmackey@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mackey_Trib.

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