Safe to say the NHL Network will do some higher-than-normal ratings in Blair County on Wednesday night.
That’s when rookie forward Sam Lafferty, a Hollidaysburg native, is scheduled to play the first preseason game of his NHL career when the Penguins visit the Detroit Red Wings.
Lafferty has hit a series of thrilling sign posts ever since the team he grew up rooting for picked him in the fourth round of the 2014 draft.
He attended his first development camp in black and gold, played his first game for the team’s AHL affiliate and took part in training-camp scrimmages for the first time.
Wednesday night’s game, though, will likely top them all.
“It’s right up there for sure,” Lafferty said. “Probably the biggest so far, to finally play, even though it’s not a regular-season game, to put on a Penguins sweater in an NHL arena and go play, I’m very fortunate to have the opportunity. I’m really excited.”
Lafferty, Brown University’s leading scorer each of the past two seasons, said his main objective against the Red Wings is to keep his legs moving.
“Definitely my speed is a big part of my game,” said the 6-foot-1, right-handed shooter who can play center and wing. “I think I’ve shown that here in camp. They just encourage that and tell me to keep going.”
Lafferty played nine games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on an amateur tryout at the end of last season, recording a goal and two assists.
While the level of competition will be a little higher for Wednesday night’s game – Detroit’s lineup includes NHL regulars such as Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha and Jimmy Howard – Lafferty’s nerves can be calmed by the fact that he’s played in a high-level pro game before.
“It was a very valuable experience last year in Wilkes-Barre,” Lafferty said. “I’m definitely going to draw on that tonight. I’m ready to go.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at [email protected] or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.