2012 Minnesota Wild Prospects: #13 - Erik Haula


Erik Haula
Center, 5'11" 192 lbs
University of Minnesota (WCHA) 49 points (20G-29A) in 43 games

There are Wild prospects playing overseas who we get a chance to see a couple times a year and partially rely on stats and scouts Then there is Erik Haula.

Haula, Minnesota's seventh round pick in 2009, has been in the spotlight of both local fans and amateur scouts everywhere as the Finnish forward enters his junior season at the University of Minnesota. Wild fans have the chance to go just down the road from the Xcel Energy Center to Mariucci Arena and see him while a certain author of this article also dabbles in covering the Gophers. Haula has been covered multiple times by Dan in prospect viewings and even got a full feature in the initial Wild Prospect Handbook (cheap plug: it's free to download).

So what's one more?

Erik's sophomore campaign has had some major highs mixed in with lows. After beginning the season becoming the first Gopher since Thomas Vanek in 2002 to score 17 points in a month, Haula only scored 4 goals between November and January. Towards the end of the season he re-found his scoring touch, putting up 6 goals in Minnesota's last 7 games( leading to a loss in the Frozen Four semifinals to eventual national champion Boston College), but it is this inconsistency which makes it it hard to predict his scoring touch.

There were times throughout the year where Haula, who centered the Gophers' second line with senior Jake Hansen and freshman Sam Warning on the wings, could take over a game himself and down the stretch the line was a 1A/1B with the Kyle Rau-Nick Bjugstad-Zach Budish top line. However, there were plenty of others where he looked to let the game come to him and play undisciplined; in fact, sometimes the two sides of Haula's hockey would come out in a two-game series.

You can't, meanwhile, take away the fact a seventh round pick led the top offense in college hockey in scoring. It's no easy feat to do on a Minnesota squad that boasts dynamic forwards like Bjugstad, Florida's first round pick in 2010, and the Wild as an organization can always use more scoring prowess.

Another positive note is the jump Haula took in his development between his freshman and sophomore seasons. While it includes the scoresheet (more than doubling from 24 to 49 points), Erik also improved in other facets of his game. There were plenty of times where Haula proved his worth on the penalty kill last season and the then-sophomore was one of the better faceoff guys last year. Scoring the game-tying goal against Wisconsin shorthanded March 3rd is great but so is winning 11 of 14 face-offs. Lots of players who score at the collegiate or junior level have to adapt when they make the leap to professional hockey and despite his smaller size (Haula has grown from 5'9", 170lbs to a now-listed 5'11", 192 lbs), Erik is expanding his arsenal.

At the same time, that might not be enough. He is behind a few other forwards in the Wild's prospect pool despite leading the local Gophers in scoring and it is no surprise when fellow WCHA forward Jason Zucker signed a pro contract and Haula returned for his junior year. He can make an impact but whether that includes a long-term spot in a NHL top-six role is no guarantee.

There is plenty to be excited about Erik Haula - especially for a seventh round pick - and the sky is the limit if he can become more consistent.

Previous 2012 Minnesota Wild Top 20 Articles:
#14 - Daniel Gunnarsson
#15 - Raphael Bussieres
#16 - Kris Foucault
#17 - Nick Seeler
#18 - Tyler Cuma
#19 - Chay Genoway
#20 - Tyler Graovac
Honorable Mentions
Introduction

Photo Credit: Gophers Athletics/Gopher Puck Live

2 comments:

  1. So if you were Erik's hockey rabbi, what would you tell him about the kind of junior year he has to have to give serious consideration at the end of it to turning pro instead of returning for his senior season?

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  2. Good question. if I were Erik's hockey rabbi, I'd harp on him being more consistent while continuing to round out his game. Scoring nearly 50 points again (being in the top-ten of all college hockey players) would be great but the difference 40 points spread evenly throughout the season and 50 mostly clumped into 2 distinct months isn't that big.

    I'd also remind him the High Holidays are coming up.

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