The Penguins’ second round draft pick (No. 58 overall) Filip Hållander has had an excellent start to the 2018-19 season, and it seems as if it’s come as a surprise to just about everyone — including Hållander himself.
“(My successful start) has been very unexpected,” Hållander said in our recent interview. “I thought I was going to get a role on the fourth line and get maybe six or seven minutes per game. It’s great.”
The impressive 18-year-old center, who the Penguins traded up to be able to select, has successfully adjusted his play for the Swedish Hockey League, and it’s gotten him bumped up to the top line early thanks to his aggressive style of play. That decision by head coach Fredrik Andersson has yielded big results, and it goes to show that Hållander’s scouting report upon getting drafted was very accurate.
“Right now, I think (Hållander) is overachieving,” Andersson said. “I had high expectations for him, but I think it has been a really good start for him this season. He works really hard, and has the speed to create great chances. On the counterattack and on the forecheck, he wins the puck. He battles hard. He gets position for scoring chances. He’s played really well for us so far.”
Through 12 games with the Timrå IK club in the SHL, Hållander has already collected seven points (two goals, five assists). Last season, at a lower level of competition, Hållander had 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists) in 40 tilts, so staying very productive at such a young age against Sweden’s top level of hockey has made for a great start.
“I’m trying to use my speed a lot,” he said. “I want to win puck battles and set up my teammates for scoring chances.”
When asked if Pittsburgh is in constant talks with him (i.e., scouts taking the time to give him pointers from afar, etc.), Hållander mentioned that the organization rarely has any influence in his game-to-game performances; they maybe catch up once every few months. In fact, Hållander said they’ve only has three discussions since his signing. That comes as no surprise with him playing out in Sweden. However, he did mention how much of an impact Penguins development camp had on him during the summer and how it has boosted his skills for this 2018-19 season, especially after they signed him to a three-year, entry-level contract.
“(Development camp) was great,” he said. “I had lot of fun in Pittsburgh, meeting the guys and the staff and seeing the organization. It was a great time, and I really enjoyed it. There were a few guys who are playing in the AHL that stuck out to me, but it’s hard to compare them (to the skill of the SHL) because it’s a different game over there.”
The excitement surrounding this kid was already high after the signing, but with results like these, it’s hard not to raise the bar for him going forward. It’ll be interesting to see if Hållander take his top-six placement as a trial-based interview and continues to regularly find the score sheet on Timrå IK’s first line. Hållander is also in-line to compete with Sweden’s Under-20 team at the World Junior Championships in a couple of months.