Finland forward Erik Haula, bottom, battles with Switzerland defender Eric Blum during the Group B preliminary round match between Finland and Switzerland at the Ice Hockey World Championship in Minsk, Belarus, recently.
The Minnesota Wild were appreciative of the opportunity for Erik Haula to play for his native Finland in the World Championships.
Haula is returning to Minnesota with more than just international experience, however. Haula, the Wild’s rookie forward, suffered a nondisplaced fracture of his jaw while playing in the gold medal game this weekend.
The Wild announced Haula’s fracture would not require surgery and he’s expected to be fully recovered in three to four weeks.
Haula was crosschecked by Russian forward Evgeni Malkin, a member of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, in the gold medal game, won by Russia. Haula had one assist in six games for Finland in the tournament, joining his team late after Minnesota was ousted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the playoffs.
Haula averaged 17 minutes, 17 seconds of ice time for Finland in the tournament.
Coming from the University of Minnesota, Haula turned pro after last season’s college hockey finish and spent his first NHL season with the Wild this past season. He finished with six goals and nine assists in 46 regular-season games with a plus-14 rating. Haula tied for the team lead with four goals in the playoffs.
"I think that with Erik, I’m really pleased that he’s going," Minnesota head coach Mike Yeo said after the playoffs. "It’s a continuation of his development. This year has been a great year for him in that regard, the steps that he’s taken. Now, to have the opportunity to go over and play for his country, to play against some of the greatest competition in the world, to do it at that stage, I think we all saw what that did for (Mikael Granlund) this year and hopefully it will have a similar effect on him."