Shortly after the disappointing Game 6 loss to Chicago, the Finnish Ice Hockey Association announced that Wild forward Erik Haula would be headed to Minsk, Belarus to join Team Finland in the 2014 IIHF World Championships.
The tournament got underway on May 9 and Haula is expected to suit up for his first game on Thursday as the Finns take on Belarus at 12:45pm CST.
For Haula, this is his first time playing for the Finnish National Team. He played one U20 tournament and two U18 tournaments for his country, but has never worn the blue and white at this stage. For their part, Finland will be glad to be picking up a fast forward who has been dynamic under pressure over the last month.
Finland, home of defensive forwards and impossibly good goaltenders, has only scored eight goals through their first three games, four of those coming against Germany in the team’s only win so far. Team Finland is 1-0-0-2 in the tournament, having dropped their first two matches to Latvia and the powerhouse Russian team, led by Alex Ovechkin, who is second in tournament scoring with three goals and five assists through four games. Actually, four of the top five scorers in the tournament are Russian, with Ovechkin being the only NHL player in the top ten.
The tourney boasts a bevy of NHLers, but is of course a shifting number as teams are eliminated from the NHL playoffs and players head off to join their national teams.
Playing on the international stage should continue to build Haula’s game following a rookie season in Minnesota where he surprised many and made a name for himself with solid defensive play and electric speed. This is the kind of development that is really great for a young player like Haula. He’s getting experience in high pressure, highly visible (outside of North America) games.
Haula is reported to be the only Wild player headed to the 2014 IIHF World Championships.
Update: Haula did not play in Thursday’s 2-0 win over Belarus.
Update 2: (6am CST, May 16) Though it confirms nothing, an early morning (for us) tweet from Erik Haula makes it seem as though he will be on the ice for today’s 12:45pm CST match against Switzerland.
— Erik Haula (@EHaula) May 16, 2014