Lafferty Emerges As Bright Spot for Brown
by Joshua Seguin/Staff Writer
Sometimes talented players struggle when first coming to college hockey, for various reasons. But that doesn't mean the talent is gone, it may just take longer to evolve.
A great example of this is Brown junior Sam Lafferty, who has been one of the few bright spots for the Bears this season. Despite the struggles of his team, he has excelled and shown clear progression with his game.
"He has tremendous foot speed," Brown coach Brendan Whittet said. "There is no difference when he has the puck or when he doesn't, which is rare. He never slows down. He has good hockey sense, plays hard and all around he has really raised his game. He has taken a big, big step for us this year."
Lafferty came from Prep school to Brown, and was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins the summer before his arrival. He was part of an influx of talent Brown brought in, but younger, and it has taken time for them to develop. Bypassing junior hockey and going straight to college presents even bigger challenges in adjusting to the pace.
"It was a huge adjustment, but I have always had a lot of support along the way from coaches and teammates," Lafferty said "It has been challenging but the support has been there so it has made it a lot easier for me."
For Lafferty and his junior teammates (Max Willman, Tyler Bird and Charlie Corcoran) the progression has taken two years. All four of them came directly from Prep to Brown. Lafferty, Willman and Bird are each NHL draft picks.
"All of them came in with huge accolades," Whittet said. "The expectation was that all those guys would play at a high level. With Sam leading the way, those guys have been good and have taken a step. It just takes a little bit of time."
In the ECAC, this seems to be an even bigger struggle. Even Jimmy Vesey, last year's Hobey Baker Award winner, had a learning curve in his first couple years in the league. Another example, is John Hayden, who plays for Yale.
"I think it will be an advantage going forward in my career," said Lafferty. "We play in a tough league, so every night is a battle. Knowing every night is going to be tough is going to help prepare for later on in my career."
After just eight goals and 22 points in his first two seasons combined, Lafferty has eight goals and 19 assists this season. He is fourth in the ECAC in scoring and third in points per game. Those numbers are also good for 26th in the country or 14th in the per game category. In the ECAC, only the Union trio of Mike Vecchione, Spencer Foo and Sebastian Vidmar have more points.
"I think a big part of it for me is just having that extra year of experience," Lafferty said. "I think I am getting more opportunities this year, in some better spots, offensively. I think that all goes into it. I like the way we are playing at 5-on-5, I think we are heading in the right direction."
On Friday night against a hot Yale team, Lafferty scored twice and had an assist, which led his team to a 3-1 lead. The Bears, however, were unable to hold on as they got mired in penalty trouble.
He had a four-point game against UNH in a 7-4 loss and a three-point effort against Union early in the season. In the game against Union, the Bears took a 4-3 lead into the latter stages of the third only to allow three goals in the final five minutes.
One of the signs of a good player is the fact that they play in all situations. Because he moves the puck so well through the neutral zone, he mans the point on the power play.
"He has becomes jack of all trades for us," said Whittet. "He plays in all situations and plays a ton of minutes. But he has earned those minutes and he is a good player."
"Playing a lot of minutes has been fine," Lafferty said. "Whenever your number is called, you just have to be ready to go. That is how I approach it and just try to be ready to go."
Lafferty and some of his junior teammates have been bright spots in an otherwise sour season for Brown. Of course it isn't too late to make a run, which it has been known to do in the recent past. Often times, it just takes one win to get it started and get the confidence going in the right direction.
"The difference between winning and losing is a fine line," Lafferty said. "It is tough because there have been games where I felt we had it. We just need to stay positive, do what we can, stick with the process and I think good things will come."