Unlike previous years, the 2014 NHL draft didn't have an abundance of players with ties to Western Pennsylvania.
Also unlike previous years, the Penguins selected a player with ties to Western Pennsylvania in this year's draft.
With their fourth-round selection, the Penguins took center Sam Lafferty, a native of Hollidaysburg in Blair County. Having spent the past three seasons with Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts, a school which counts NHLers such as Craig Janney, Marty Reasoner, Alex Killorn and former Penguins Ben Lovejoy among its alumni. Lafferty (6-foot-0, 187 pounds) is expected to for the Tri-City Storm, a USHL team based in Kearney, Neb. In 2015, he is expected to attend Brown University.
After the conclusion of the draft Saturday, Lafferty, 19, talked about his background, his future and how the Penguins sparked his interest in hockey.
It's safe to assume you grew up a Penguins fan?
"Yeah. I’m from Hollidaysburg. Been a Penguins fan as long as I can remember. Lived in Hollidaysburg my whole life and played for the locals teams here. But yeah, huge Penguins fan."
What's your background as a hockey player?
"When I started, I played for a team called the Altoona Trackers. Played for them for several years before playing for a team called the Mid-State Mustangs based out of the same rink here in the Hollidaysburg/Altoona area. Stayed in Hollidaysburg until 10th grade then went away to a high school in Massachusetts called Deerfield Academy. I just graduated a few weeks ago. When I went away to Deerfield, I played split seasons for the Mustangs and also played in the Winter for Deerfield."
What was it like when you found out the Penguins drafted you?
It was incredible. I don’t think it’s really, really sunk in yet. The associate general manager [Jason Botterill] called me and just said, ‘We’re happy to have you as part of our organization.” I thanked him for the opportunity. From there, I was able to enjoy it with my family and friends. I got a lot of nice messages from all the people I’ve met over the years, all my friends from Deerfield. It was real nice to share it with every one.
At what point did it seem like being drafted was possible?
"I guess I knew there was a pretty good chance at some point. It thought maybe there was a chance Pittsburgh could take me but anything could happen on draft day. Kind of uncertain. I don’t think I could have really dreamed it any better being taken by my hometown team. Maybe a little bit earlier than I expected too. A little bit of a surprised and pretty surreal."
How do you describe yourself as a player?
"If I said If I had to compare myself to a Penguins right now, I’d say Brandon Sutter. We both play center. I think I have some similarities to him. Obviously, he’s a great player. He’s just someone I really try to emulate. A good two-way center. An all-around good player. Responsible but also really skilled."
Are there any Penguins' players or moments which really stand out for you as a fan?
"I think it started for me just watching them in the playoffs, I think in 2001 with [Mario] Lemieux, [Jaromir] Jagr [Martin] Straka, all those guys. Watching them in their [Eastern Conference quarterfinal] series against Washington, that really made me want to start skating. That’s kind of when I started going to the rink in town which had just been put in the year before. It was really good timing for me to be able to start skating right when I saw the Penguins on TV. That was sort of the inspiration for me."