Haula signs entry-level deal with Wild

MINNEAPOLIS — The University of Minnesota men’s hockey team has lost yet another player early to the pros.

Forward Erik Haula, who led the Gophers in scoring with 51 points, signed an entry-level contract Sunday with the Minnesota Wild. He will report to the Houston Aeros, the Wild’s American Hockey League affiliate.

Haula was a seventh-round pick of the Wild in the 2009 NHL Draft. The Finland native has led the Gophers in scoring each of the past two seasons. As a sophomore, his 49 points (20 goals, 29 assists) were tops on the team. He scored 16 goals and added 35 assists this season. He earned All-WCHA second team honors as a junior.

Haula’s early exit means five Gophers have left the program a year early to turn pro. Defenseman Nate Schmidt signed with the Washington Capitals, forward Nick Bjugstad joined the Florida Panthers and made his pro debut on Saturday, forward Zach Budish went to Nashville, and forward Mark Alt signed with Philadelphia. Haula, Bjugstad, Budish and Schmidt were four of Minnesota’s top five scorers this season. The five early exits combined for 162 points, or 42.5 percent of the Gophers’ scoring.

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