Since he was taken in the 7th Round in the 2009 Draft- he didn't expect to be around that long after receiving a favorable ranking from Central Scouting (which, having become with familiar with CSS and their rankings and opinions...shouldn't be taken as gospel)- all he's done is produce. He blistered the USHL playing for The Omaha Lancers following his time at Shattuck-St. Mary's, and has put up a paltry 122 points in 112 games for the Maroon and Gold so far in his three year college career, including 16 goals and 33 assists in just 35 games this year, which included a few missed games due to an injured finger. There is a chance he could lead the Nation in scoring at season's end.
Its not just that he's emerged as a premier offensive force for Minnesota- his ability to command games has garnered the moniker "Beast Mode" from FRB- but he's developed into a very good defensive player as well; to the point where he's been anointed the most complete player in college hockey. He runs the point on the PP, he kills penalties, he's out on the ice when it matters most. His consistency is improving- at times he can be invisible, and others he is a gamechanger, plain and simple. Not that inconsistency is foreign to young players.
Its now tournament time, and we'll be seeing the frenzy of NCAA signings by the players' parent clubs, or the undrafted free agents ink deals that lead them away from the days of ramen noodles and cheap beer. Minnesota's already punched their ticket to the WCHA Final Five (for the last time), and are all but locks to make the NCAA Tournament, where the Gophs are expected to make a run at the Title. So what happens to Haula at season's end?
I've been of the belief that he'll be in Houston once his season ends- that he's so accomplished at the NCAA level that the next (logical) step in his development is to turn pro and playing together with the same prospects he's played with at the Development Camps. If he does sign an Amateur Try Out Agreement, it delays the inevitable Entry Level Contract that will come- which would also spread out the logjam of contract negotiations that will occur in a couple years. Guys like Coyle, Brodin, Phillips, and Coyle will all be up for a raise, and maybe some getting a more significant chunk than others.
Although he won't "be pigeonholed" as to what role he'll fill- he'd get every opportunity to play top minutes in all situations for The Aeros (or in Des Moines, if the team moves once their lease at the Toyota Center is up...maybe more on that later)- and in a salary cap world, a team can never have enough cheap, young, skilled talent.