The day before Sam Lafferty's NHL debut, he told me he was looking to "contribute any way I can — play a fast game, physical, and make plays too. I’ll have a lot of excitement and a lot of jump in my step."
Lafferty was scoreless in the Penguins' 4-1 loss to the Jets, skating on a line with rotating linemates of Teddy Blueger, Dominik Kahun, and Zach Aston-Reese. While he didn't contribute on the scoresheet, Lafferty didn't look out of place in his role, and lived up to what he told me he could bring to this Penguins' lineup.
Lafferty showed that jump in his step on his first shift, driving to the net after a controlled zone entry. He wasn't able to get a shot off, but you at least got a glimpse of energy:
Lafferty is a guy who is pretty strong on pucks. He's a pretty strong guy in general, at 6-feet-1, 195 pounds. He used that strength to hold onto the puck and make a play later in the period:
Lafferty finished the night in a five-way tie for the team-lead in shots, with four. He was tied for third for the number of scoring chances, with three, and tied for sixth in shot attempts, with five in 15:30 of ice time. He registered his first shot on goal and a subsequent blocked attempt midway through the first period:
Lafferty was tied for the third-most hits on the team on Tuesday, with four, including this hit in the second period:
In the third period, when the game was already all but over, Lafferty was still using his speed to get some good scoring chances off the rush:
Lafferty also drew a penalty in the game, this tripping call on Anthony Bitetto:
"It was a special moment," Lafferty said of his debut after the game. "It's hard to process right now I think. It was a blast and it was pretty incredible."
As the game went on, the nerves went away and Lafferty started getting comfortable.
"When you're in the game, you're just playing hockey," he said. "The game's a lot faster, guys are a lot better. But it's still the same game. I just tried to play simple and play to my strengths."
Mike Sullivan was impressed with what he saw out of Lafferty.
"Really liked his game," Sullivan said. "His speed is so evident, he's such a strong skater. He's strong on the puck himself. I really liked his game. I think Sam has the potential to be a serviceable, valuable player to this organization. I told him that when we sent him to Wilkes-Barre. We really liked his training camp and he has the attributes to be a real good role player. He can play center, he can play the wing, he can kill penalties, he's good on the forecheck, he's got a good shot, he can really skate. And with the way the game is being played today, if you can skate like Sam skates, I think it really gives you a chance. And so I thought his skating tonight was very evident. I thought he had a great game."
With Bryan Rust, Evgeni Malkin, and Nick Bjugstad all out "longer term," and Patric Hornqvist potentially injured, we'll probably be seeing a lot more of Lafferty in this early stretch of the season.
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