2009 prospects: Erik Haula

By Holly Gunning

Erik Haula is an interesting person, made all the more interesting by his skill set. Small but talented at 5’11, 170, Haula is an incredible passer with good speed to go with it.

Raised in Finland but speaking near-perfect English, Haula made the jump overseas this past season with Shattuck-St. Mary’s High School. He shined offensively there, which he’ll hope to carry over to the University of Minnesota.

First, he’ll have to make it through the NHL Entry Draft. Haula has been invited to the NHL combine, where he should shine with his agreeable personality. Haula is now rated 66th overall by ISS in their April ranking (post-tournament). Central Scouting has him 57th among North American skaters in their final ranking (pre-tournament).

Recently Haula took part in the U18 World Championships, his second year at the tournament. Finland finished third this time — a bit better than expected. The Finns were "fast and furious" as Russian Kirill Kabonov put it. Haula had three goals and one assist in six games.

Hockey’s Future spoke to Haula after a round robin game early in the tournament.

HF: How did your team feel starting the tournament, were you confident in your chances?
EH: Before the tournament, we knew we had a really good team, a lot of players who’d been here already. Last year we had seven and this year four guys who had gone to World Juniors, so that’s really big for us and helps a lot. But we’ve got to keep focused.

HF: Your team looks very cohesive on the ice, is that because you’re been together a long time?

EH: We have really good team spirit. We’ve been together for three years. We talk about things together. Everybody cheers for everyone on the bench.

HF: Your English is almost perfect, where did you learn to speak it?
EH: I learned to speak English when I was young. My dad coached American football in Finland and we had players who stayed at our house. They taught me to speak English, so that was really good for me.

HF: Do you speak any other languages?
EH: Yes, I went to a Swedish school in Finland for 10 years before I left for Shattuck, but now that I’ve been talking English a lot, the Swedish and English are kind of the same so it gets mixed up. When I try to speak Swedish I get some English words in there too. I have a Swedish roommate (Alexander Fallstrom) so it helps a little bit.

HF: How was your adjustment to North American hockey at Shattuck?
EH: Coach {Tom) Ward is pretty different from other coaches, but after like a month I think I had a pretty good picture of what he wants me to do. I think he improved my game a lot this year and I’m really happy about things he did.

HF: What do you think you improved on the most?
EH: The whole picture of playing hockey — he teaches you to play the right way. It’s not one thing.

HF: Doing all the little things?
EH: Yeah, and we need the whole team to make it work. It doesn’t help if one guy from the line does it. When we get that style of play going we’re a good team there.

HF: The impression of Finnish hockey is that it’s the closest to North American hockey of all Europeans. Would you agree with that?

EH: Yeah, I think so. I think a lot of people agree on that. Finnish hockey is pretty physical, while Sweden and Russia is more skill, going around and blah blah blah (demonstrating). But I think our way is pretty much like North America and that’s why I think the adjustment here was pretty good for me.

HF: Would you say your passing is your best asset?
EH: Oh yeah. I can score, but I think that’s the best thing with me. I think I’ve got pretty good vision on the ice and I can find linemates pretty good. If I get a chance I can bury it also. I played with Fallstrom and I had 62 assists and he had like 40-something goals, so we had a pretty good connection together.

HF: Have you talked to many NHL scouts for the draft?

EH: Yeah some, but some teams came to the rink and I didn’t talk to them a lot. All of them say they’re going to talk to me more at the combine. I don’t want to think about that, we have a big tournament here right now and I want to put all my focus on that, try to play the best hockey I can and then after that I’ll think about that kind of stuff.

HF: What’s been the biggest injury you’ve had in your career?

EH: I haven’t ever had a big injury. I broke my ankle like three years ago. That wasn’t that big. Just small problems with my shoulder.