Given the rapidly depleting availability of recognizable names left on the Penguins roster— made especially noticeable by the loss of Kris Letang, who was absent Saturday’s contest against the Toronto Maple Leafs due to COVID protocol, joining a list of missing players that included Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Bryan Rust, Jeff Carter and Tristan Jarry— it can be easy to forget about the team’s actual minor-league affiliate.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are 2-1-0 through their first three contests, with both wins being close thrillers in which new goaltender Filip Lindberg shone in net.
For the purpose of this article, we’ll be focusing on a different Filip— Hallander, the Swedish league prospect whom the Penguins lost to the Maple Leafs and then snatched back again, scored his first professional goal on Friday night.
How Hallander scored his first tally is easy to guess if you’d watched him in the two games prior. In the clip below from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s 2-1 win in Lehigh Valley on Oct. 16, watch No. 51 in front of the net—as usual, he spends the entire play in front of the blue paint, only relenting when the puck has reach twine.
Oct. 16, 2021 Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins, Youtube
That’s typical from Hallander. Although dinged repeatedly by scouts over the past few years for his slow skating, he is regularly praised for knowing how to use his strong frame— and that use is often screening opposing goaltenders.
In the 2021 Pensburgh Top 25 over 25, Hallander was referred to as having “a low ceiling but a very high floor” and as “very close to a sure thing”— he’s generally considered one of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton players most likely to make it into the NHL. That solid presence in the blue paint, where you can find him on many of the Baby Penguins’ scoring chances three games into the season, explains why the 21-year-old is an attractive option as a future NHL bottom-six forward.
Now, take a look at Hallander’s first professional goal. You’ll never guess how he did it. That’s right: driving toward the blue paint.
Oct. 22, 2021 Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins, Youtube
Hallander has fit in well with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton through three games. It will be interesting to see how his role grows as the season progresses. Will the 2018 second-round pick need a full AHL season to develop his game and improve his skating, or will he earn his first shot at the NHL later this season?