Our annual, 2021 version of the top players under the age of 25 in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization.
#25: Santeri Airola
#24: Jan Drozg
#23: Will Reilly
#22: Clayton Phillips
#21: Chase Yoder
#20: Kirill Tankov
#19: Raivis Ansons
#18: Lukas Svejkovsky
#17: Judd Caulfield
#16: Johnathan Gruden
#15: Kasper Bjorkqvist
#14: Jordy Bellerive
#13: Cam Lee
#12: Drew O’Connor
#11: Joel Blomqvist
#10: Isaac Belliveau
#9: Calle Clang
#8: Filip Lindberg
#7: Nathan Legare
#6: Tristan Broz
#5: Valtteri Puustinen
#4: Filip Hallander, Left Wing
Age: 21 (June 29, 2000)
Height/Weight: 6’1, 196 pounds
Acquired Via: Trade with Toronto (July 2021)
Filip Hallander might not quite be the proverbial “prodigal son”, but he has returned to the Penguins’ organization just the same. Hallander was drafted in 2018 by Pittsburgh, only to be traded to Toronto in 2020 as a part of the deal that sent Kasperi Kapanen to the Pens.
Fast forward one year, and Hallander would be involved in another Pittsburgh and Toronto transaction, this time going back to the Pens in exchange for Jared McCann (who the Leafs only snagged as an expansion tribute to protect the rest of their players). Got whiplash yet?
Anyways, for Hallander it might feel like the two trades never happened at all — due to the coronavirus pandemic he never put on a Toronto jersey or skated in any sort of camp in North America, staying last season on loan in the SHL where he had another successful season. Hallander played well enough to get some games in with Sweden’s World Championship team last spring, too.
Hallander played three full seasons now in Sweden’s top league, all before his 21st birthday earlier this summer. He has advanced to the point where the next step of his pro hockey career will be taken over in North America, and it turns out it will be with the team in Pittsburgh that originally drafted him.
To get re-introduced to the once and current Pittsburgh prospect, here are some scouting reports and videos. (#51 in red, yellow)
Filip Hallander sneaks in from the half-wall on the powerplay and taps in a rebound for his 8th of the season pic.twitter.com/2Aaz3wotfG— big time fan of hockey, the least stupid of sports (@mostlyleafies) February 3, 2021
Hallander had another good season in Lulea and made Sweden’s World Championship team. He’s a forward with a high skill level, good creativity and vision as a playmaker. He finishes from range and in tight due to his strong frame and compete level. His main drawback is his subpar skating, which has held up at the SHL level but may prevent him from putting up significant scoring totals in the NHL. I see Hallander as a long-term bottom-six winger in the NHL, who is close to playing that type of role for Pittsburgh.
What Pronman says above is often repeated — Hallander is somewhat of a “low ceiling but very high floor” prospect at this point. We’re not talking a future NHL all-star, but at the same time this is a player who has the skills and upside that has a very, very good chance of playing a ton of games in the NHL.
There’s a very good chance that Hallander could be a Tyler Kennedy-type — NOT in playing style or for similarities there, but more having a 500+ NHL game career and several 15-20 goal seasons and being a very good third/fourth line player for a very long time.
Hallander is a huge, huge outlier for the Penguins’ system now, too. They have almost no “sure thing” prospects. Hallander is very close to a sure thing. He’s not a very flashy player, and his skating has seemed to plateau after a broken leg injury from a few years ago, but he’s solid. Knows where to go to score and gets there. This goal against Russia really shows that getting right to the net and making the finish.
From watching some clips, Filip Hallander (51) isn't flashy but that's not a knock on him. He gets to the front of the net and fights for space and rebounds. Is also not a bad passer either showing signs of vision and offensive awareness. Not bad a shot either. pic.twitter.com/5YCAQ4a9ns— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 25, 2020
Hallander’s two-way game is good too, he’s a responsible player at both ends of the ice that doesn’t coast or take shifts off. It’s a perfect mentality for a lower line player who will likely get a small role and need to earn the trust of the coaches and carve out a niche for himself by earning more as he goes along.
The big question now is just how soon will Hallander be working in Pittsburgh? The answer could be very soon. The Pens probably have at least a job or two available for someone to win, and GM Ron Hextall has already mentioned Hallander by name as a candidate to step in, step up and prove that he belongs in the NHL.
Hallander will have to out-shine players in the Sam Lafferty, Anthony Angello, Radim Zohorna, Dominik Simon level of the fringe forwards on the roster, that will likely be the main competition where the Pens will be looking to see if any of those players belong or can earn a spot as the 12th or 13th forward to open the season.
Depending on how Hallander takes to his new challenge of playing in America and how he fits, it’s not inconceivable he could be in the NHL opening night lineup, or at least on the roster. However, given the numbers game and log jam of lower-end forwards, an apprenticeship and opportunity to grow his American game in the AHL might be in the cards to start the season.
But based on Hallander’s past and the abilities he has shown in the SHL, don’t expect him to stay in Wilkes-Barre pretty long. Odds are high at some point soon that Hallander will get the opportunity to play in the NHL sooner than later.
And for the team that drafted him and has traded him away and back for him too. An interesting route for a straight-line player with a lot less complications on the ice.