Shortly after the Wild were eliminated, Chuck Fletcher had rookie playoff standout, Erik Haula, pack his bags for the International Ice Hockey Federation's Men's World Hockey Championships in Belarus. There he would represent his native country of Finland. Team Finland, fresh off their Olympic Bronze Medal appearance in Sochi were sporting a team that only featured big Finnish stars like Pekka Rinne, Jarkko Immonen, and Olli Jokinen.
Haula, number 56, played in just six games because of the Wild's second round appearance in this year's post-season. In those six games, the Pori native notched one assist, generated 10 shots on goal, and averaged over 17 minutes per game. He also played a second line role alongside Olli Jokinen and Leo Komarov upon arriving in Belarus.
Team Finland eventually lost in the championship game to Russia 5-2 as the Russians got the benefitted from four power play goals including a 5-on-3 advantage that saw Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin score. The power play for the Finns was lackluster at best in the gold medal match.
Speaking of Evgeni Malkin, he cross checked Haula in the side of the head as Haula was attempting to pressure him in the defensive zone. Here's the video of that hit.
It was nice to see Team Finland come to the defense of their young player. Olli Jokinen was even in the mix as IIHF on-ice officials tried to control the fracas that was about to ensue. If you didn't know, Finns and Russians don't much care for each other.
The decision to send Haula to the Worlds was the best for Erik's development. The kid was able to take his great showing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and continue playing in more meaningful games in a tough tournament. Outside of the nasty cross check to the head, Haula played good minutes and played with some good players during his tournament. Finland was able to take home the silver medal, even though Finland's biggest NHL stars were missing and that has to do with guys like Haula stepping up and playing well. Hopefully, his game will again progress throughout the offseason and into next season.