We all knew changes were coming and Kyle Dubas wasted little time getting to work reshaping the Leafs roster. On Tuesday, he made his first move of the offseason and shipped Kasperi Kapanen back to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Leafs and Penguins exchanged multiple pieces in the deal but the key components of the trade were Kapanen for Pittsburgh, and the Penguins 2020 first round pick along with Swedish prospect Filip Hallander for Toronto. We’ll have to wait and see what the Leafs decide to do with that pick. Do they use it in another trade to add help on the blue line or do they keep the pick and add to their prospect pool with the 15th selection in what many analysts have referred to as a deep draft?
While we aren’t sure what will become of that draft pick in the coming weeks, months, or even years, Filip Hallander is more of a known quantity even at just 20 years of age. He’s a player that the Leafs have kept close tabs on going all the way back to before he was selected by Pittsburgh in the second round of the 2018 draft.
Dubas says Hallander was right at the top of their draft board when they picked in the second round that year. They were hoping to pick him in 2018.— James Mirtle (@mirtle) August 25, 2020
The Leafs ended up choosing Sean Durzi, who was subsequently moved in the package for Jake Muzzin, 52nd overall before the Penguins chose Hallander a few spots later at 58th. The newest Leafs prospect has spent the last two seasons developing his game in Sweden’s top professional league, suiting up for Timra in 2018-19 and Lulea in 2019-20.
Hallander on Dubas' message: "He said they have looked at me for a long time and had an eye on me and how I developed…they thought I played really well and was happy to trade for me so I'm really happy, they see me as a potential NHL player in the future." https://t.co/dlZ4w9rNk7— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) August 25, 2020
Hallander had an impressive D+1 season with Timra putting up 7 goals and 14 assists for 21 points in 45 games as an 18 year old, and added another 5 goals and 3 assists through 7 games in the relegation round. He was primed for a big year in 2019-20 but suffered a broken leg in September, derailing his season and keeping him on the shelf well into the season. He still got into 27 games for Lulea registering 5 goals and 9 assists as a responsible two-way presence. His .519 points per game was the third highest mark in the SHL among players 20 years old or younger.
Hallander was drafted as a center but has played predominantly on the wing in the last couple of years. He has plenty of attributes that would allow him to be effective in the middle but likely projects as a winger in the NHL. Currently listed at 6’1″ and 190lbs, he’s already a big kid who uses his size to win battles down low and still has room to add strength to his frame. He moves well for his size, and while he’ll never be confused with the player he was traded for, he has decent speed.
Touted as more of a responsible two-way forward, Hallander’s vision and finishing ability are perhaps a bit undersold. He’s adept at finding teammates in open space off the rush, as well as off the cycle and isn’t shy about getting into the dirty areas of the ice to retrieve a puck or bang home a goal from the blue paint.
Hallander has that puck hound mentality, always hunting for takeaways in all three zones. He has good hands that allow him to not only swipe pucks from opposing players, but make a play with it afterwards. He thinks the game at a high level and has the versatility to play a variety of roles up and down the lineup while contributing on both special teams units.
There’s some untapped offensive potential in Hallander as well. He’s a great net front presence and will cause his share of havoc in the crease, but he’s got a good shot as well.
Here's 47 more seconds of Hållander highlights pic.twitter.com/Uo5fMoTusr— Rink Rat Report (@RinkRatReport) August 25, 2020
Hallander is a nice addition the Leafs’ prospect ranks and provides something that many of the Leafs’ other top prospects aren’t known for. Overall, he’s a a reliable two-way forward who should be able to slide up and down the Leafs lineup in the future as something of a Swiss army knife. He’s not likely to be an offensive star but the Leafs have plenty of star power up front already, and a player like Hallander could make them a bit less one-dimensional.
Patric Hörnqvist and Alex Killorn are some players that come to mind when I think of Filip Hållander's NHL potential. https://t.co/dhX3FCQaE0— Jokke Nevalainen (@JokkeNevalainen) August 26, 2020
Kasperi Kapanen was the first – but surely won’t be the last – casualty in Kyle Dubas’ efforts to alter the makeup of the Leafs lineup, and Leafs fans should be quite pleased with the return he brought. Not only did the team acquire a first round draft pick in a year with plenty of high end talent up for grabs, but they added a prospect who looks to be plenty capable of filling the hole left by Kapanen in the coming years.
(Statistics from eliteprospects.com)