The first round of the 2024 NHL Draft is one that promises to offer a lot of dramatic twists and turns as it unfolds. Boston University center Macklin Celebrini is the nearly universal candidate to be selected by the San Jose Sharks with the first overall pick. Beyond that, projections vary widely about how the first round will play out.

There are perhaps as many as 10 candidates to be selected in the top five, and about 15 viable directions teams could go within the top 10 without too much of a "reach" beyond the generally projected consensus. Even then, there could easily be some surprises where a player either goes earlier than pundits predict or who slips into the latter half of the opening round.

There are Draft years in which teams' internal rankings have relatively minor variations in their projected top one-third to one-half of the first round. That's not the case in 2024. This year, there could be significant variance in how teams rank Draft prospects after Celebrini. 

For the Philadelphia Flyers, who hold the 12th overall pick, this means there's a higher-than-average chance that at least prospect internally ranked within in the top five will still be on the board when Philly makes it first selection of the Draft. Even if the selection board doesn't play out that way, odds are extremely high that Philly could select someone ranked just outside the internal top five. 

Why is the case? There's encouraging news and there's also reason for pause. On the positive end, while Celebrini is perhaps the lone prospect who is currently considered to be a near slam dunk for future NHL stardom, that doesn't mean there isn't plenty of quality to be found. It would a surprise, in fact, if the 2024 Draft fails to produce multiple high-end NHL players within three to five years.

The catch: Nearly all of the candidates beyond Celebrini will have at least one "X-factor" they'll need to address in their post-Draft development. 

Some have pre-Draft injury concerns. Others will have to show they can overcome a lack of size (this is particularly true among some of the projected centers, where a size/speed/skill/sense combination is highly coveted for No. 1 status on a future NHL depth chart and very hard to find every element). A few potential top 12 to 15 selections were latter-season risers whose Draft selection spot in midseason rankings rose sharply by the end.  Some candidates are "tools" picks, where size, skating and natural skill are all evident but have yet to demonstrate higher-end hockey sense. 

There are defensemen in the Draft class who have very high offensive ceilings but whose consistency and off-puck game are question marks OR who must work through size concerns. In general, as with any Draft, defenseman development is a bit trickier to predict -- there are no Chris Pronger or Victor Hedman or Drew Doughty types this year where future No. 1 status in the NHL is a virtual lock even by age 18. That's not to say no blueliners from the 2024 class cannot or will not achieve that status in the future. It's just that there's more projection involved for post-Draft development.

Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr. who heads the organization's scouting and drafting functions, has stated that he is confident the Flyers can land a high-quality future NHL player at the 12th overall spot. Compared to other Draft years, he foresees a drop off in prospect projectability in the latter half of the first round. Basically, this means candidates who may either have lower floors to their projected NHL upside or a bigger leap of faith in hoping they eventually approach their ceiling.

In addition to their own pick, the Flyers also hold the Florida Panthers' 2024 first-round selection (acquired in the Claude Giroux trade in 2022). In an upcoming article, we'll discuss possible candidates for selection in the late first round. The Flyers second pick of the opening round will either fall 31st or 32nd overall, depending on the outcome of the 2024 Stanley Cup Final between Florida and the Edmonton Oilers.

First, however, we'll go in depth with a series of three articles looking at a potential candidate pool for the 12th overall pick: one article focused on centers, one on wingers, and one on defenseman. Shortly before the Draft (round one is on June 27), we'll have our annual mock Draft article and a Draft-focused edition of the Prospect Pipeline podcast.