The season is still young, but the Hurricanes have gotten incredible production from their newly acquired center man. Erik Haula, so far, looks to be as good as advertised.
Last season, despite their triumphant march to the playoffs during the seasons second half, the Carolina Hurricanes struggled offensively. There was a lack to consistency in the areas of the game that produce high danger scoring chances, and the Canes flatlined early.
This was an issue in the forward group that Don Waddell started addressing last year, and solidified this offseason. Acquisitions like Nino Niederrieter, Ryan Dzingel, and Erik Haula are all the fruits of that effort. An effort that has this teams first three games nearly unrecognizable to the team that started last year.
Eric Haula, specifically, has been an important part of that equation. He entered the year with high expectations, and was perceived as a vital piece to the success of the offense. There were some who had doubts, but Haula, thus far in the season, has proven to be everything the Carolina Hurricanes needed; and then some.
Haula has had an interesting road to Raleigh; a road marred with success and failure. the Finland native was a seventh round pick in 2009.Being selected, not for his incredible skill, but for how he might blossom as a player.
Drafted, and eventually signed, by the Minnesota Wild, the former Minnesota Gopher produced over 100 points in over 100 games. His production for the Wild didn’t arrive until 2014. Over the next few years, Haula became one of Minnesotas most underrated players, and was lauded of his ability in all three zones.
It was Haula’s fifth NHL season which saw him change teams for the first time. Selected in the expansion draft, he agreed on a three-year extension to be a part of the inaugural Vegas Golden Knights; being a part of a Group that would go on to make history.
A nasty knee injury left Haula’s career in jeopardy. Even though he had seemingly arrived at his peak, producing a 29-goal, 55-point, 2018 campaign, the Golden Knights feared for his ability to return to form. He was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes for a prospect and a fifth-round pick; a trade that may be one of Waddell’s best.
Nobody really knows whether or not that deal will work out for Carolina, we are only three games in, but we do know that he has been off to an incredible start. It isn’t simply the three goals in three game that should have Caniacs buzzing, it’s what he is doing to get those goals.
Haula, thus far, has excelled at something so vital to offensive success, and so sparse on past Hurricanes teams; net front presence. Watch Haula’s goals, they all happen while he’s screening the goalie, and really emphasizing his rebound opportunities.
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Injuries could return for the 28-year-old centerman, but he seems more likely to return to the near 30 goal scorer he was in 2018, than the player who played only seven games in 2019. If he can stay healthy, what is the ceiling for such a player? a guy who works so well with his teammates; is he a 30-goal scorer? It’s certainly likely. Could he put up 40 goals? it isn’t impossible.
For now, us Caniacs can only do our job, and cheer Haula and the boys on to victory. Their three wins, all in overtime, all after trailing to start the third, speak to the kind of team this is. A gritty group, willing to do whatever it takes to win. A team who Haula seems made to be a part of.
A former seventh round pick, who helped take an expansion franchise to the Stanley Cup Finals, seems made for this.