The Toronto Maple Leafs and Pittsburgh Penguins pulled off a six-player trade on Tuesday. The centrepiece of the deal was winger Kasperi Kapanen, originally drafted by Pittsburgh but traded to Toronto as part of the Phil Kessel deal in 2015.
Kapanen was sent to the Penguins along with forward Pontus Aberg and defenceman Jesper Lindgren. Coming back the other way was the 15th-overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, depth forward Evan Rodrigues, AHL defenceman David Warsofsky and a Swedish prospect named Filip Hallander.
Outside of the first-rounder and the additional cap space, the most notable asset Toronto acquired was Hallander.
With that in mind, here’s a bit more on the young forward.
Team: Lulea HF (SHL)
Hometown: Sundsvall, Sweden
Age: 20 (born June 29, 2000)
Weight: 190 pounds
Hallander was a late second-round pick in 2018, when Pittsburgh selected him 58th overall, and was widely considered a top-three prospect in the Penguins’ pipeline.
He signed an entry-level contract in Pittsburgh in 2018 but never suited up for the team that season, so his first year slid to 2019-20. He has two years remaining on his rookie deal before he is slated to become a restricted free agent in 2022.
Has spent his entire playing career in Sweden
Hallander spent his junior career with in the Timrå system where at times he was a teammate of 2019 Calder Memorial Trophy winner Elias Pettersson — despite being two years younger than the Vancouver Canucks star.
He made the jump to the SHL in 2018-19, where he finished the season with 21 points in 45 games. He had an impressive — albeit brief — playoff run with five goals and eight points in seven games.
Hallander joined a new team in 2019-20 after transferring to Luleå in the SHL. He missed several months after fracturing his leg during a game early in the season and finished the year with 14 points in 27 games.
He routinely represents his country at international tournaments, having won gold at the 2016 World U17 Hockey Challenge and bronze at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup in 2017. He was on Sweden’s 2019 world junior squad but the aforementioned leg injury kept him off the 2020 team.
Hallander signed a two-year contract with Luleå, so Maple Leafs fans shouldn’t be surprised if he stays in Sweden for the 2020-21 season.
A power forward in the making
Hallander was excited to be drafted by Pittsburgh two years ago partly because he said he models his game after Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist. Hallander told NHL.com in 2018 that while many of his compatriots love watching Erik Karlsson and Nicklas Backstrom, he thought Hornqvist was underrated.
“He’s just a solid, two-way player,” Pittsburgh’s director of amateur scouting Patrik Allvin said of Hallander at the time. “He has those character traits like Patric Hornqvist. He goes to the hard areas and produces.”
Growing up, his favourite player was Peter Forsberg because he was both skilled and physical. So you can see there’s a trend there.
Hallander at times has also drawn comparisons to Swedish forward Alex Steen, with whom Maple Leafs fans are rather familiar.
Maple Leafs had interest in 2018
Toronto was among the teams Hallander sat down with during the 2018 NHL Scouting Combine. In fact, they were his first interview.
The Maple Leafs took blueliner Rasmus Sandin with the 29th overall pick that year and followed that up by taking another defenceman, Sean Durzi, in the second round at No. 52 — just six spots ahead of Hallander.
The Penguins traded the 64th and 146th picks to the Colorado Avalanche in order to move up and select Hallander.
It remains far too early to judge the 2018 draft class, since only two players taken outside of the first round have made their NHL debuts.
Comes from a hockey family
Hallander’s father, Patrik, played professionally in Sweden from the early 1980s to the early 1990s, including several seasons with Timrå, where he was teammates with future NHL star Fredrik Modin.
Later in life, Patrik got into coaching as an assistant bench boss on Timrå’s U16 team. He helped coach his son’s team during the 2015-16 campaign and stayed with the U16 club for a couple additional seasons after his son had moved on.