Filip Hallander is a player that has a lot going for him. He’s not old, he’s well-rounded with a variety of abilities on and off of the puck. For a Penguins’ team without a ton of that in the system, year two of his pro career could be his best chance to stand out and try to make a name for himself.
2022 Pensburgh Top 25 Under 25: Graduates and Departed
#25: Nolan Collins
#24: Colin Swoyer
#23: Jonathan Gruden
#22: Ty Glover
#21: Kirill Tankov
#20: Judd Caulfield
#19 Corey Andonovski
#18: Jordan Frasca
#17: Isaac Belliveau
#16: Taylor Gauthier
#15: Alex Nylander
#14: Nathan Legare
#13: Tristan Broz
#12: Raivis Ansons
#11 - Lukas Svejkovsky
#10 - Filip Lindberg
#9: Filip Hallander
2021 Ranking: 4
Age: 22 (June 29, 2000)
Height/Weight: 6’1, 196 pounds
Acquired Via: Trade with Toronto (July 2021)
Filip Hallander’s long, strange North American career finally got off the ground in the 2021-22 season. After being drafted by Pittsburgh in the second round in 2018. traded to Toronto in 2020 in the deal that sent Kasperi Kapanen to the Penguins. Hallander would return to the Pens in a second trade 2021, during a deal made for Pittsburgh to shed Jared McCann just before the Seattle expansion draft.
After all that wheeling and dealing, Hallander started his NHL contract back with the Pens. During the Swedish portion of his career, Hallander was producing at his age to suggest a 78% chance of being a potential NHL lineup contributor. That took a hit after only scoring 14 goals and 28 points during his rookie season at age-21 in the AHL.
Instead of potentially being a middle-line winger, it looks like Hallander’s ceiling is shifting towards being a really good fourth liner or a maybe a third liner.
That said, the Penguins’ decision makers still really like and are invested in what Hallander brings to the table. Mike Sullivan was pleased with Hallander early in the season, and late in the year when Hallander made his NHL debut, Sullivan gave a quote that Hallander was enough that “everyone feels we can put in our lineup and he can be impactful in a number of ways.”
Then again, going by actions and not words, Sullivan played Hallander less than six minutes in an important April game against the Rangers, and then jettisoned him back to the minors when the team re-gained health.
In the minors, Hallander showed some peaks at why the team is high on him. He is a simple player, which isn’t an insult, but just a fact of the way he plays. He has demonstrated willingness to go to the net, and that is where the majority of goals are scored. Often in a lot of these highlights, he’s not carrying the puck through the zone or gaining the blueline while making great individual efforts or beating the goalie with high and hard shots. He’s hanging around, waiting for a pass and then pouncing when the opportunity strikes.
That makes 3⃣ for Hallander pic.twitter.com/2LbaXp4Xk1— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) February 27, 2022
As mentioned in a common theme of the T25U25, the second pro year is often times a telling one for prospects. They’ve had a full trip around the circuit to figure out the toll of what happens during a year from training camp to the playoffs. Hallander got one NHL game last year, and several other call-ups as an extra that took part in NHL practices and warmups. He’s been close to the brink of having an NHL role. His AHL time was fair, but nothing exceptionally encouraging.
That was year one, as a 21-year old rookie. Now he’s 22, and not a rookie. Might not sound like a huge leap or difference, but in hockey prospect terms having almost 70 AHL games (regular season and playoff) plus a peak at NHL life means he’s exponentially more experienced now then he was 12 months ago.
Much like players in his “class” for second year pros like Sam Poulin and Nathan Legare, this second season in 2022-23 will be the time for Hallander to attempt to rise to the top in the AHL level and become one of the top players in Wilkes-Barre.
The interesting part about this aspect is players like Poulin will also be Hallander’s competition to get to the NHL, as will the host of other forwards that Pittsburgh has signed or traded for this summer (Danton Heinen, Josh Archibald, Ryan Poehling), and the others who spent time in Wilkes last year who could be close to the NHL as well (Drew O’Connor, Radim Zohorna).
Hallander’s opportunity for a big NHL impact indeed looks blocked at the moment, but as the Penguins have learned all too well, a lot of different scenarios can happen during a long and costly season. For Hallander’s sake, in this all important second season, controlling what he can control and staying in the NHL conversation while taking a next step at the AHL level would be a great direction to shoot for.