Erik Haula was an unknown, more or less, prior to last season. While he had spent time at the University of Minnesota, he was drafted in the 7th round, and was always an outside pick to make an NHL team, much less to have an impact.
Have an impact he did.
After 3 years in Finland in their minor league and national team, Haula came to the US to play in the USHS with Shattuck St. Mary's (while continuing to play for Finland's U18 team). He spent time in Omaha before becoming a member for 3 seasons of the Minnesota Golden Gophers. After being drafted 182nd overall by the Minnesota Wild, Haula spent time in the AHL before moving to the Wild last season (for roughly half the year). Last season for the Wild, Haula put up 15 points in 45 games, plus another 7 points in 13 playoff games.
Over this time, Haula also developed an impressive "bro nod".
Haula possesses a number of skills that make him dangerous and effective on the ice. First and foremost, he is FAST.
Fortunately for the Wild, that isn't his whole game. He is responsible defensively, has great hands, good vision, and a good shot (as you can tell from the above videos. He isn't massive (5'11'') though he has decent heft (192 lbs), and puts out a massive effort on the ice. Last season, Haula led all Wild skaters with 2.1 Points per 60 (above Jason Pominville at 1.94 and Granlund at 1.79). He's an impact player, and we have yet to see the best from him.
The only way Haula isn't playing in the NHL this year is if he is injured. By the end of last season, he was centering the 3rd line, and did so very well. He can effectively shut down other players, and can lead a scoring threat while doing so. He is one of the most dynamic and threatening players the Wild possess. What's ever better: like Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter, Haula is still developing. He will be a player to watch this year, and has many fans (including me) very excited to see what he can do this season.