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Who is Filip Hallander?

Aside from a new Maple Leafs prospect, that is.

Sweden v Kazakhstan - 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images

Filip Hallander, or Hållander if you want it Swedish, is a 20-year-old forward who was drafted by Pittsburgh in 2018.

Yesterday, Dubas said this about him:

Which is a nice thing to say, but their next pick was number 76 in the third round. Suffice it to say, they liked him then, and now he’s a Maple Leaf.

Hallander is average sized (for a hockey player) at 6’1” and 190 lbs per Elite Prospects, and he shoots left. His most recent play in Sweden saw him at left wing, so for now, I’m calling him a LW, but he has likely played some centre.

Because Pittsburgh signed him immediately at age 18, his contract will slide for the current year that the NHL is still finishing, as well as last season, and the Leafs will have him on an ELC for three full years at an AAV of $747,500 (thank you to Earl Schwartz for calculating that). As he notes in his tweet, Hallander will be cheaper than a league-minimum player in his final two seasons. It’s a gamble to sign prospects from the second round right away, but if you do, the benefits to your salary cap come to pass about when they mature into NHLers.

Who Was he?

Hallander was born in Sundsvall, Sweden, two years after Elias Pettersson was. They played together for years on the same junior teams working their way up from U16 to U20, until finally the older and more gifted Pettersson spent one year in the SHL before he joined the Canucks.

Timrå, the team they played for (in the next town over) was in Allsvenskan until the year after Hallander was drafted. At the time of his draft, his team had just won promotion to the SHL, and the young players often get bounced when that happens, but Hallander graduated to the new league along with his team. He was sixth in scoring in that SHL season. Sadly, they finished last and were relegated again out of the big league.

Hallander had low ice time that season, but some serious power play time, which is where a few of his points came from, but not the majority. He had to have impressed, though, at only 19 that summer, because he didn’t follow Timrå back down. He was loaned to Luleå, where he played this season in the SHL and is set to play in their coming season, which starts this fall.

Kyle Dubas said in his press call that the Leafs will honour the loan deal Pittsburgh entered into, but Hallander can come to Leafs training camp, and will go back to the SHL if he doesn’t make the Leafs.

Sundsvall and Timrå are in the north of Sweden, and they look like the gateway to northern Ontario. The trees are pine, the travel is long stretches through forest, and the towns are far apart. But Luleå is so far north, you’re forgiven for thinking you’ve crossed into Finland by accident. It’s like Thunder Bay only smaller.

One thing Luleå cares a lot about is hockey. The team is usually good, and last season (for them, which makes it the 2019-2020 season) they finished first by a large margin and looked ready to run for the championship. Of course, that never happened, and the playoffs were cancelled. Hallander is coming off a season of success on the top line of the best team in the SHL, and now the chance exists for him to play in Luleå until the Leafs training camp opens and then who knows?

Careful, Nick Robertson, there’s a new left winger in town.

Hallander finished 34th in the SHL in Corsi% in the season that just ended. But there were 13 players ahead of him that played 10 games or less, so he’s nearly top 20. In the SHL, like the Liiga in Finland, the top lines on the best teams have Bergeron Corsi numbers just by showing up at the rink. But nonetheless, he’s 19, or he was during the season, and he’s on the top line of the best team, and he’s good.

He’s always been good.

He was playing U16 at 14, J18 at 15, and had moved fully into J18 by the time he was 16. He played his first men’s level game when he still qualified for the U17 team.

Rating the Prospect

But how good is that in a North American sense? Where does he stand relative to Nick Robertson? Four inches taller and 15 months older. That’s all I will claim to know, but if we were doing Top 25 voting right now, I would finally have a hard decision in figuring out exactly where to place Hallander.

Hallander does not have the impressive raw goal scoring numbers that Robertson wows you with, but then Hallander only played 27 games this season after breaking his leg. He missed this WJC, but played in the previous one in Victoria/Vancouver with Rasmus Sandin and Pontus Holmberg. That team was really offensively challenged, and Hallander had no goals, but like a lot of the rest of the team, he was positionally sound, a hard worker, and he seems to be a bit more defensively adept than the average zippy winger like Robertson.

Hallander and Robertson aren’t two of a kind, rather they are, perhaps, exactly as different as the Leafs need their prospects to be.

EP Rinkside (paywall) has a feature on the trade that includes a shotplot from Hallander’s SHL season which is a blur of shooting from the net-front. They have this to say:

Hållander is hockey’s equivalent [of] a 3-and-D wing, a basketball term for specializing in three-point shooting and defence. With no three-point line in hockey, Hållander settles for the other kind of high-value shots — net-front.

They mention something that was echoed by Dubas: Hallander is a smart player who makes good decisions. Here’s a video where they break down his net-front play:

But not everything is roses in their review of him. Mitch Brown describes him as an average transition player and passer. And doesn’t think he’s very good at handling the puck moving up the ice. There is a reason, like there usually is, why this player was drafted in the second round.

They have a statistical model using a similarity score method that rates Hallander as very likely to make the NHL, but not very likely to be a top six player there. He is likely going to grow up to be someone a lot like Kasperi Kapanen, and he’s not too young to be making a serious attempt at an NHL job this season.

Video and Boxcars

Stats are below, but let’s have some video first:

He’s wearing 91, it was meant to be.