"There's no question in my mind a team will take him early"
That was what Central Scouting's Jack Barzee said of Erik Haula, the Minnesota Wild's 7th round pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
The 5'11" 170lbs playmaker is currently playing with the Omaha Lancers of the USHL. With 72 points in 56 games, he is 2nd in scoring for the Lancers, tied for 5th throughout the entire USHL and is tied at 3rd for rookie scoring.
The Shattuck St.Mary product was rated 55th in the 08-09 Mid-Season CSB Rankings and rated 57th during the 08-09 Final CSB Rankings.
So what the hell happened?
Nothing has seem to be fit with Haula. After being rated to go early in the 2009 Entry Draft, he goes in the 7th round, passed over 181 times before finally being picked by the Minnesota Wild (who also decided to draft his partner, Alexander Fallstrom, from Shattuck St.Marys), and was even left off the Finland's roster for the World Junior Championships, being passed over fellow Wild draftees Eero Elo and Jere Sallinen.
Shattuck St.Mary's head coach Tom Ward could only have good things to say about him based on this NHL.com article:
"He's not afraid to get physical and he's pretty rugged. He's not altogether that big right now but he'll mix it up."
"He's a rink rat and always has a smile on his face. He loves to get on the ice and do as much as he possibly can to improve his game. He plays both ends of the rink, plays enthusiastically, is a good puck mover and has a good scoring touch around the net."
"He speaks better English than some of us do here in Minnesota. There wasn't much of a learning curve for Erik. The Finns are exposed to the North American game right in their country. The terminology is different than theirs, but they still understand how to play. He plays wherever we put him and he's happy going wherever we want him to play. He likes to consider himself a forward and he's played up the middle a little bit and played wing. He hasn't played up the middle exclusively this year, but he's getting better acquainted with that position this season."
If his coach's comments weren't enough, read this McKeen's article:
So if its not talent, and if he's already heading towards the U.S college route, it must be his work ethic right? Well, based on this Omaha Lancer article, his work ethic seems to be one of his strengths:
"He’s a pretty mature kid," Lancers coach Bliss Littler said. "He has a lot of talent and he’s worked hard in the weight room. He’s taken that part seriously.
Erik Haula was invited to the USHL All-Star game and is currently playing in the playoffs with the Omaha Lancers and is tied for first in scoring with 6 points (all assists). It sounds as though Haula has tons of skill, has great character and has a solid body frame to work with. Whatever caused Haula to be picked that late in the 2009 Draft and to be left off the Finland WJC Roster is still unknown but Wild fans will find out soon whether it was just nonsense or if there is actually some big flaw that keeps hiding from public notice when he goes to University of Minnesota next year.
P.S Hockey Wilderness did a piece of Haula that provides even greater insight into the Wild's possible draft gem