With the 2020 NHL regular season officially coming to a close due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, we will be highlighting the 2019-20 campaign of Florida Panthers forward Erik Haula.
Following an injury-riddled 2018-19 season, the native of Finland would join forces with the Carolina Hurricanes for the start of the 2019-20 hockey season. Haula would essentially experience a solid bounce-back year with the surging Canes, recording a respectable slash line of 12 goals as well as 10 assists for 22 total points in 41 regular season games played.
Ultimately, Haula was seemingly regaining his scoring touch while playing in a top-six role with the Hurricanes. The 29-year-old was beginning to play like the Erik Haula of 2018, when he recorded 29 goals and 26 assists for 55 total points for the Vegas Golden Knights in their inaugural season.
However, Haula, alongside fellow teammate Lucas Wallmark and prospects, would ultimately be shipped to the Florida Panthers at the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline in exchange for former All-Star center Vincent Trocheck. Haula was essentially the main piece heading to the Cats in the Vinny Trocheck trade. The transaction would result in Haula joining his fourth NHL team, having previously played for the Minnesota Wild, Vegas Golden Knights, and Carolina Hurricanes.
Prior to the shutdown of the regular season, Haula would contribute a line of 0 goals as well as 2 assists for 2 total points in 7 games played for the Panthers. The Finn’s production on the Cats was not necessarily impressive by any means, but he was just starting to find his niche on the roster.
Despite the relatively small sample size in Florida, the impending unrestricted free agent seemed to be meshing well in a top-six role. Haula’s speed and playmaking abilities are what make him the perfect fit on the Florida Panthers, and certainly a potential weapon in Florida’s play-in series versus the New York Islanders.
In addition, Haula is a solid two-way forward who can play both ends of the ice relatively well. While participating in 405 contests across a seven-year NHL career, Haula has recorded a marvelous takeaway to giveaway ratio of 181 to 118. Essentially, Haula rarely turns over the puck to the opposition and can create turnovers while hounding the opposition with relentless forechecking.
Furthermore, he’s also developed into a versatile NHL caliber player, serving as a highly competent center and winger, as well. In fact, during the 2020 NHL season split between the Hurricanes and Panthers, Haula recorded a sensational faceoff winning percentage of over 54 percent on well over 700 draws and roughly 56 percent on about 100 draws in FLA.
All in all, the Panthers are certainly thrilled to have Erik Haula on their current squad. In fact, the Cats could pair Haula with All-Star winger Jonathan Huberdeau if the team is in need of a shakeup within the top six when they take on the Islanders.
If Haula is able to produce admirably during the qualifying round and beyond – if the Panthers get that far – then management could be enticed to find a way to extend Haula, as tricky as that may be given their summer cap situation.
Haula has performed rather well in the playoffs as a member of the Minnesota Wild and Vegas Golden Knights, and the Cats will rely on him for necessary offensive production against the Islanders in August. If all goes well, then the former 50+ point scorer may find himself in a Florida Panthers jersey for the start of the 2020-21 season.