29 goals, 26 assists, a playoff game-winner in overtime against the Kings, and a countless number of big-time goals late in games for the Golden Knights. That’s what Erik Haula did as the center on the second line with David Perron and James Neal. The key words in that sentence are “as the center.”
With the departures of Perron and Neal and the acquisition of Paul Stastny, it stands to reason that Haula may not project as a center anymore. Instead, he might wind as a winger for a line centered by Stastny. Haula weighed in on that topic when he was asked about moving to the wing on NHL Network.
I’ll leave that to the coaching staff. I obviously like playing in the center and I had some success there last year, but I want to win and whatever helps us to do that is key for our group. I’m sure there’s going to be some discussion going into camp and trying our different things but I’m sure at the end of the day we’re going to do what’s best for the group. –Erik Haula to NHL Network
Stastny is much better at faceoffs and is widely considered a better defensive center than Haula, but that doesn’t take away the fact that Haula just had the best year of his career helping to lead the Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Final, and he did it as a center.
If Haula remains at center it would mean either Stastny would play wing (which is highly unlikely) or Cody Eakin or Pierre-Edouard Bellemare would be pushed to the wing. Here’s an idea of how it would look each way…
Haula as a winger
Haula as center
Personally, the latter option looks better to me. Stastny’s defensive prowess should work well with the offensive weapons in Tuch and Tatar, and Haula as a center instead of Eakin on the third line would inject a ton of offense into the lineup. Plus, Eakin and Bellemare on the same line has a chance to be even better than the fourth line everyone fell in love with last year.
Haula says he prefers playing in the center and his career year last season proves he is more than capable of doing it. The signing of Stastny brings up questions at the center position and the finger is pointed at either Haula, Eakin, or Bellemare. One of them is no longer a center. That much we know. Unfortunately, it’s August and we won’t get the answer as to who until mid-September, at least.