Former Gopher Erik Haula made his NHL debut last night with the Minnesota Wild and picked up his first NHL point with an assist in the Wild's 3-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche.
Wearing No. 56 for the Wild, Haula is the 15th former Gopher to play in the NHL this season, joining Keith Ballard (Minnesota), Nick Bjugstad (Florida), Alex Goligoski (Dallas), Erik Johnson (Colorado), Phil Kessel (Toronto), Nick Leddy (Chicago), Jordan Leopold (St. Louis), Paul Martin (Pittsburgh), Aaron Ness (New York Islanders), Kyle Okposo (New York Islanders), Nate Schmidt (Washington), Jordan Schroeder (Vancouver), Thomas Vanek (New York Islanders) and Blake Wheeler (Winnipeg). Former Gopher defenseman Seth Helgeson was re-called by the New Jersey Devils earlier this week but has not seen action.
Here's the first NHL point for Haula, who was drafted by Minnesota in the seventh round (182nd overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft:
Three former Gophers played in the Wild/Avalanche game with Keith Ballard (Minnesota) and Erik Johnson (Colorado) joining in on Haula's debut. Johnson assisted on the eventual game winner and finished the contest +2 with two blocks and two hits. Ballard contributed a pair of blocks and a hit in the loss for the Wild.
A native of Pori, Finland, Haula totaled 124 points (42-82--124) in 114 career games for the Gophers from 2010-13 and was the first Gopher since Ryan Potulny (2003-06) to finish his collegiate career with an average of more than a point a game. The forward ranks 49th all-time at Minnesota in scoring.
The forward led Minnesota in scoring each of the last two years as the Gophers earned two-straight MacNaughton cups as Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) regular-season champions and two NCAA tournament berths including the team's run to the Frozen Four in 2011-12.
Haula improved his offensive performance in each of his three seasons with Minnesota, starting with a 24-point freshman campaign in 2010-11. Haula's sophomore season saw the forward lead Minnesota in scoring with 49 points and a career-high 20 goals as the Gophers captured the team's first MacNaughton Cup since 2006-07 and returned to the NCAA Frozen Four for the 20th time in program history and the first time since 2005.
In his final season with the team, Haula served as an alternate captain and recorded Minnesota's first 50-point season since 2005-06, finishing the season with a career-best 51 points and 35 assists. An All-WCHA Second Team selection in 2012-13, Haula recorded 19 power-play points to spark the nation's best team on the advantage. Minnesota, which added a second-straight MacNaughton Cup in 2012-13, also led the nation in scoring offense during Haula's final two seasons with the program.