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  • What to Expect from Erik Haula


    Furthermore, as the two following usage charts will show, Erik Haula accomplished this with poor (though not awful) zone starts, mediocre-at-best teammates, and mediocre-at-best competition.



    The long and short of all this is: Haula played impressively well, considering he had moderately difficult competition and mediocre line mates. But unless you just crawled out from under a rock, you already knew that (it's just fun to remember). What I'm really interested in is what we can expect from him next year.


    Unless something wildly unexpected happens, Haula will remain the 3rd line center. The change (hopefully) will be found in his Quality of Teammate. Right now, Haula is slated to have either Coyle or Niederreiter on his right wing. His left wing is slated to be Matt Cooke. Personally, a faster, more offensive-minded player would suit me: Michael Keraänen would, in my opinion, be a good fit. Fontaine, also, could be on Haula's right wing, and could be effective there.


    HERE is a search based on games played (fewer than 50) rather than TOI; it's quite similar. Haula scored the 14th most points of all these players, but only the 20th most points per game. Overall, Haula had the 17th most TOI of all players on that list.

    Where things get interesting is on the far right, where Hockey-Reference look at point shares. The OPS, or Offensive Point Share is the number of points contributed by a player's offense. The DPS is Defensive Point Share is the number of points "contributed by a player's defense." In other words, the number of points denied to opponents by a player. Hockey-Reference also totals these into a "Point Share."

    Haula ranks 15th in Offensive Point Share- right between his total points rank (14) and points per game rank (20). Defense is where Haula's value shines: his 1.2 is the best of every player to play fewer than 500 minutes in his rookie season. In total point shares, Haula ranks 6th.

    This, to me, indicates two things. Firstly, Haula is incredibly responsible, defensively speaking. He may not light up the boards with 50 goals in 2007, but he will likely have a decent GF%. Secondly, it indicates just how much he was relied upon for solid defense. Hockey-Reference doesn't generate Point-Shares for the playoffs, but if they did, I'm betting Haula's would be quite high.


    Let's approach this from a different viewpoint. The two players who had rookie seasons most similar to Haula were Shawn Horcoff, Tomas Jurco, and Antoine Roussel.

    Here are the statistics for the second seasons of two of those players. (Jurco, who's rookie season was last season, hasn't played 2 seasons yet):


    Both of these players were defensively competent (note the identical DPS (Defensive Point Share). Their points-per-game were identical.

    Because of how long ago his rookie season was, there's limited data for Horcoff's early play. Roussel's rookie Points-per-60 was 2.5 (at Even Strength). His second season's P/60 fell to 1.6. Roussel had harder minutes than Haula in his rookie season; he started in the defensive zone around 40% of the time, with a lower quality of teammate than Haula (though not by much).

    Both Horcoff and Roussel produced more points their second year than their rookie year; Roussel doubled his point production, whereas Horcoff merely added 50% to his rookie total. However, Horcoff merely went from playing 452 minutes to 691 minutes in his first two years (from Hockey-Reference). Roussel, on the other hand, went from playing 367 to 1080 minutes. Roussel played far more his sophomore year than Horcoff (on a side note, in his 3rd season, Horcoff finally played more than 1000 minutes, and produced 33 points with a 1.4 DPS).

    One Last Comparison

    In other words: Haula's scoring rate is far from unsustainable. We may well see a drop in his points per 60, but then again we may not. There's no reason to expect regression, however.


    Haula will almost certainly be on the 3rd line again this season, and he will almost certainly have less than ideal zone starts. The fact that he's defensively responsible means Yeo can trust him to handle some tough minutes, and can allow the top two lines to have more offensive zone starts.

    Based on the production of Horcoff and Roussel (as well as pure extrapolation based on Haula's numbers this season), we can expect between 22 and 28 points this season. This will include between 8 and 15 goals, and 15-20 assists. Erik Haula has significant upside, but with the players ahead of him on the depth chart, and with the wingers he will be playing with, predicting more than 25 points is rather optimistic.

    Of course, if Yeo decides his 3rd line will not have a defensive focus, but will operate as a third offensive line, then this all goes out the window. In that case, 30 points may not be preposterous- but the limiting factor becomes not Haula himself, but his teammates. There is a significant drop in ability once you get past the top 5 wingers for the Wild. Cooke is a capable hockey player, but not an offensive dynamo. On his other wing, Haula is looking at one of Nino, Coyle, or Zucker. While Nino could be a very productive partner, he might be better used in the top 6. Coyle has not yet shown an ability to drive an offense, and Zucker has yet to show consistency in the NHL.

    In short: a lot of what we can expect depends on his use, which is completely left up to Mike Yeo.

    Whatever happens, we can be sure that Haula will be an exciting player for the years to come.

    What do you think, Wilderness? Who do you want to see on Haula's wings on the third line? How do you think the third line should be used?

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