Hear from Flyers General Manager Daniel Briere as he meets with the media at Flyers Training Center.

Flyers General Manager Daniel Briere conducted the team's annual pre-draft press conference at Flyers Training Center in Voorhees on Thursday morning. The Flyers currently hold the 12th and either the 31st or 32nd (depending on the outcome of the Stanley Cup Final) picks of the first round in the 2024 NHL Draft. 

Without delving into specifics about NHL Draft candidates, Briere laid out his assessment of the available talent pool this year. He also laid out his big-picture philosophy in approaching the NHL Draft. 

Here are five key takeaways from Thursday's press conference. 

1. 2024 is a hard draft to predict

Boston University center Macklin Celebrini is almost universally projected to be the first overall pick of the 2024. On Thursday, Briere said it is difficult to predict how the second to 11th overall pick will play out. 

Within the potential top six or seven picks, there is a loose consensus on which players may be selected in that range. Many of the same names appear in that range in national pundits' mock drafts. However, there easily could be surprises: an off-the-board selection or two can throw the draft order in a tizzy.

Additionally, as in many draft years, there could be a "run" on certain groups of prospects once the first one gets taken. This is often true with defensemen in defense-heavy drafts and, beyond the first round, with goaltenders. 

The 2024 NHL Draft is one that plausibly could see a run on defensemen at some point in the first round: Belarusian USHL defensemen Artyom Levshunov, huge-framed KHL back Arton Silayev, gifted NCAA defenseman Zeev Buium, all-around OHL blueliner Sam Dickinson, high-scoring OHL rover Zayne Parekh, and toolsy WHL blueliner Carter Yakemchuk are some of the candidates who could be off the board by the middle of the first round if it's as defenseman-heavy as some have predicted.

Regardless of what direction the Flyers end up going with their first pick of the Draft, whether it's a forward or a defenseman, Briere feels confident the team will be able to tab a future NHL upper-lineup ceiling player.

“I think we have one of the best scouting teams in the NHL, led by Brent Flahr. I trust our team," Briere said.

Briere said that, unlike some of the deepest NHL Drafts, there's a potential drop-off in the quality of the overall prospects beyond the top 15 or 16 picks. However, some high-ceiling players could unexpectedly drop into the latter part of the round as every team ranks players differently. It just takes one player being higher on any given team's internal rankings list for a player to successively move down in the Drafting order.

2. Flyers have a need at center, but not at all costs

Briere made no secret on Thursday that the Flyers' organizational depth at center is a weak spot. Presently, there's a lack of projected pivots in the prospect pool. Additionally, centers tend to be valued a little more highly than wingers. 

Finding top-notch centers is often best done at the draft because they're often in short supply and high demand. Once they turn pro and establish themselves in the NHL, it becomes harder and harder to land a first-line or second-line center in trade or free agency. 

However, Briere said the Flyers will stick by their longtime method of taking the best available player on their internal ranking list when their turn comes up. But he said the Flyers won't draft a center over a higher-ranked defenseman or winger solely for positional need. 

"If they’re equal, and we have a hard time deciding between two players and one’s a wing and one’s a center, we might lean in to a center,” Briere said.

In many cases, future NHL wingers started out as centers in junior hockey but were better suited to a wing at the top level. This is quite often the case in particular with smaller-sized prospects. 

That's not set in stone: hockey sense, pure puck skill, speed and/or creativity can help some smaller centers thrive even at the top level. Briere himself was an example in his own playing days, albeit as a late-bloomer at the NHL level.

Beyond Celebrini, some of the top projected centers in the 2024 Draft pool include big-framed and highly skilled WHL center Cayden Lindstrom. WHL swingman Tij Iginla (son of longtime NHL star power forward Jarome Iginla), gifted and crafty but undersized WHL center Berkly Catton, and well-rounded Finnish center Konsta Helenius.

Catton potentially could end up on a wing in the NHL due to his smaller frame but he otherwise has all of the tools of an impact NHL center.  Iginla has played both center and wing in his junior career to date. He was mostly a winger in 2023-24 but is hoping to move back to the middle primarily in his draft-plus one season.

Among potential high end picks who exclusively play wing, Russian standout Ivan Demidov, fast-rising Beckett Sennecke, deadly finisher Cole Eiserman (who entered the 2023-24 season as a projected top-three pick) and OHL size/skill winger Liam Greentree could be among the names who go off the board in the top half of the first round.

3. Fortune favors the bold

Last year, the Flyers selected mega-talented Russian winger Matvei Michkov with the seventh overall pick of the first round. On Thursday, Briere said the team selected Michkov knowing his KHL contract with SKA St. Petersburg runs through the 2025-26 season.

Briere had no update to provide on whether Michkov will be made available to come to the NHL for the 2024-25 campaign, saying only that if he's available, the Flyers "will jump on it". But if he can't come until next summer or the summer after that, the Flyers are prepared to wait.

In the bigger picture, Briere said, the selection of Michkov last year after other teams elected to draft other players due to the uncertain timeline of Michkov's NHL availability showed two things: 1) The organization is not afraid to select a KHL player if the scouts and management feel he's a special player, and 2) Philly will be bold in swinging for the fences even if there's some risk involved on high-ceiling talents.

Briere said the same thing applies to trades: He plans to be aggressive if there are hockey trades to be made that he feels could benefit the team at the NHL level both now and longer-term within the ongoing rebuild. 

The Flyers general manager said that things had been fairly quiet and perfunctory on the trade dialogue front until trade rumors involving Philadelphia spread like wildfire on Wednesday. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, Briere jokingly credited/blamed the media for a sudden uptick in calls he's received from other NHL general managers over the last couple days.

"You [media] guys kinda changed that all of a sudden. You guys (in the media) freaked out a lot of other people around the league. So I’ve had a lot more work in the last 24 hours,' Briere said.

As with most Draft years, Briere expects leaguewide trade talks to ramp up more and more through the NHL Draft on June 28 and 29. Whether the Flyers are able to consummate one or more deals they find appealing remains to be seen over the next week. 

4. Diversification of the prospect pool

This year is Briere's second at the helm for the Flyers. Across the spectrum of any given Draft year, Briere said he will look to diversify the array of prospect attributes entering the system: big-frame and smaller-framed players, playmakers and shooters, puck-moving, offense-minded and stay-at home defensemen, positional projections, goaltending depth, speed, size, hockey sense, etc. 

This is an ideal. Most draft years, it's not possible to bring all of the above into the system in the batch of selections. Some years, there's a bit of repetition, such the Flyers selecting goaltenders Carson Bjarnason and Yegor Zavragin in the second and third rounds of the 2023 Draft. 

Briere said it takes flexibility to adjust on the fly as the Draft progresses. At a certain point, if a player the organization projected being taken in a certain range of the Draft winds up still being on the board later, the Flyers may select the player even if they already have taken a similar style player or several who play the same position. 

5. Second round: Waiting on clarity from Columbus

As part of last year's three-team trade that sent defenseman Ivan Provorov to the Columbus Blue Jackets via the LA Kings, the Flyers acquired a second-round pick that originally belonged to Columbus. 

To complete the trade, the Blue Jackets have the option of either sending their second-round pick in 2024 (36th overall, fourth pick of Round 2) to the Flyers or deferring it to the 2025 Draft. Briere indicated on Thursday that new Columbus general manager Don Waddell has not thus far informed the Flyers of his intentions.

"We're preparing like we'll have the pick," Briere said. "But we don't know."

The Blue Jackets do not have to let the Flyers or the NHL know ahead of the Draft about whether the second-round pick sent to Philly will be for this year or next. Columbus will have until one hour after the first round to finalize that decision. 

The Flyers also hold the 51st overall pick (19th pick of the second round) this year. This pick came to the Flyers as compensation for not signing 2018 first-round pick Jay O'Brien.