Haula Heads to Worlds for Encore
Erik Haula, one year removed from leading the Minnesota Golden Gophers in scoring, will follow up his breakthrough playoff performance for the Minnesota Wild by representing his home country of Finland in the 2014 IIHF World Championship.
Although the Wild were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs Tuesday night, Haula scored his fourth goal of the postseason with a brilliant breakaway that showcased his speed. Haula, who leads all NHL rookies in playoff goals, tweeted Wednesday that he would be headed to Minsk, Belarus, for the World Championship.
There he will join 44 other former NCAA players, a group that will now represent 10 of the 16 nations in the tournament. Haula is the only former Gopher in the group, which now includes representatives of 28 schools.
Competition is underway at the World Championship already, but teams can add players until they have the maximum 25 on their roster.
Based on his playoff performance, Haula should have no trouble jumping into play in Belarus. He turned heads, particularly in the second round against the defending champion Blackhawks.
"Good gracious. Erik Haula on a roll," tweeted Chris Peters of United States of Hockey when he scored Tuesday night. "Still amazed at his rapid progression in last year. Seventh-round pick making good."
Earlier in the series, Wild leader Zach Parise took note of Haula's contributions.
"You see how important (Haula and teammate Mikael Granlund) are for our team, and how much better they are getting - especially in this postseason," the former North Dakota star said. "They have been so good for us at such big times."
Haula's increased role doesn't surprise local fans who also follow the Golden Gophers. He led the Gophers in scoring as a sophomore and junior, on teams that also featured NHLers like Nick Bjugstad and Nate Schmidt.
Now, just a year removed from campus, he'll have a chance to represent his home country in the World Championship.