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Hollidaysburg's Lafferty enjoying breakout season

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Sam Lafferty, the Penguins' fourth round pick in 2014, has developed into a legitimate prospect for the team he grew up watching.

Lafferty grew up in Hollidaysburg, Pa., located on the Juniata River about an hour and 45 minutes away from Pittsburgh. The 21-year-old forward is in his junior season playing college hockey for the Brown Bears of the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC). Lafferty appeared in all 62 games for the Bears during his first two season, tallying eight goals and 14 assists. He has taken a major step forward this season, as the 6-1, 185-pound center leads Brown with 14 points through 12 games and ranks 14th in ECAC with 11 assists.

His rapid progress has not come as a surprise to Brown coach Jason Guerriero, who said he expected Lafferty's offseason work to translate on the ice.

"Sam has gotten here being the best player day in and day out in practice, and it is up to him to fulfill that potential," Guerriero said. "Sam should be on the top line, on penalty kill and be a top scorer for the school."

Guerrero said Lafferty turned a corner in the middle of last season.

"Sam came in early as a freshman, a little young," Guerriero said. "But in the middle of last season he started realizing that he can play like a man and not a boy. He made strides mid-season."

Prior to Brown, Lafferty played at Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts, the same prep school that produced former Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy and current Tampa Bay Lightning center Alex Killorn. At Deerfield, Lafferty recorded 95 points (38 goals and 57 assists) in 74 games and was named to the 2013-14 All-New England Team. His performance led to him being selected in the fourth-round by the Penguins the following summer.

Before landing at Deerfield, Lafferty skated for the Altoona-based Mid-State Mustangs. He led the Mustangs to the semifinals of the Tier II 3A U18 National Championship in back-to-back seasons, earning national tournament MVP honors in 2013-14 with 14 goals and 7 assists.

According to Guerriero, Lafferty's development was also clear during his time at the Penguins Development Camp the past two seasons.

"Sam felt great about (last summer's) camp," Guerriero said. "Sam was realistic about his play from previous experiences and he put in the work on and off the ice."

Scouts say that Lafferty has become an elite-level skater, quality puck-handler and has the traits to become a leader and to help bring Brown's hockey program to the next level.

The Penguins seem to agree, hoping that Lafferty can join their minor league program before long.

"This year he came as his own player," Guerriero said. "He took steps in the right direction."

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