Flyers Should Be Aggressive at the 2024 NHL Draft

The Philadelphia Flyers are over a calendar year into their rebuild, and they haven’t made the postseason since 2020. What if I told you that there’s a possible way that the Flyers can build up their prospect core so well that they could essentially put an end to the madness and start winning again pretty soon?

In the immensely talented 2024 NHL Draft, Philadelphia has the chance to do something special. If they want to do that, they have to be aggressive. Risks will need to be taken, but the reward could be extreme.

Flyers Need to Increase Their Urgency

Let’s start with a few negatives of what the Flyers have done, just to rip off the bandaid and set the scene. Since June 7, 2023, the Flyers have only traded two NHL roster players, acquired one prospect, and added three draft picks in the first four rounds of a draft. On the flip side, they have since acquired three roster players, traded away one prospect, and also sent off two draft picks in the first four rounds. This doesn’t really scream “we’re rebuilding,” and definitely isn’t helping the team progress. The Flyers have serious holes in their prospect pool and on their roster—those issues aren’t going to fix themselves.

In the 2023 offseason, before Travis Sanheim’s eight-year no-trade clause (NTC) kicked in, the Flyers had a chance to rid themselves of his expensive $6.25 million cap hit that won’t expire until he is 35 years old. To his credit, general manager (GM) Danny Briere wasn’t going to let him get away for nothing—he saw value in Sanheim, and he was right in that as the defender was great in 2023-24. The 28-year-old defenseman was coming off arguably the worst season of his career, so trading his contract might have been difficult. Even still, the Flyers’ lack of urgency now has them backed into a corner, for better or for worse.

Another example of this is 30-year-old forward Scott Laughton, who really struggled in 2023-24. To put it bluntly, he was unplayable at the NHL level according to most analytical models. And yet, the Flyers were reportedly offered a first- and second-round pick for his services in the 2023 offseason. Instead, Briere played hardball and possibly lost out on a really nice package.

Even after his disastrous season, the Flyers are still playing hardball on Laughton. They didn’t send him off at the trade deadline in March, and they still haven’t done so in June. His value isn’t going to be high forever—if the Flyers want to get some value for him, they can’t afford to wait any longer. The 2024 offseason is their chance to make a move, if they still can—the information out there insists that other teams stay far away.

Flyers Can All But End Their Rebuild at the 2024 NHL Draft

With all that being said, the Flyers still have a chance to change their ways. Getting into the positives, the 2024 NHL Draft can be the team’s saving grace. The first half of the first round is so good that it could put an end to the Flyers’ rebuild if they are aggressive enough. With multiple teams reportedly shopping their first-round picks and the Orange and Black having assets like Laughton, Travis Konecny, Joel Farabee, Rasmus Ristolainen, a bunch of prospects, a first-round pick belonging to the Florida Panthers in 2024, and a first-round pick belonging to the Colorado Avalanche in 2025, there’s some ammo here.

But would the Flyers really benefit from putting all of their eggs into one basket? Well, it would definitely be risky, but their odds of landing an elite player seem to be really good. If they can get another pick early in the first round combined with their 12th overall pick, they might be set for the long-term future.

In the past, we’ve already established that the Flyers’ goaltending is in a great spot. We have also established that, if everyone hits their ceiling, the Flyers’ defense is also in a great spot. They might want to add another bonafide top-pairing defender if players like Jamie Drysdale and Oliver Bonk never become true first-pairing defensemen, but the point stands that they don’t have a ton of work to do there.

Related: Flyers’ Goalie Depth Bodes Well for Their Future Between the Pipes

What they do need are forwards. A first-line center to complement Matvei Michkov and an elite top-six winger with offensive upside could give Philadelphia a nasty offense for the future. The good news is that the 2024 class is no ordinary one—great players will fall, and we are pretty certain of this.

In his most recent mock draft, Logan Horn of The Hockey Writers had Cole Eiserman, Berkly Catton, Tij Iginla, and Konsta Helenius going 10th or later in the class. In a normal draft, I’d personally wager that every one of them is a top-five talent—these forwards are seriously that good.

I’m going to insert my own personal bias here: if the Flyers can take Helenius and Eiserman, this would be the perfect draft. I’ll elaborate on that a little bit further, but it is not only possible if the Flyers hunt a top-10 pick in a trade, but also somewhat realistic.

Helenius, a center, has literally everything you want out of a prospect. He is elite in all three zones, has legitimate Selke Trophy upside in my eyes, showcased his scoring upside with the fourth-most points in Liiga history among age-17 players, was dominant in transition, and won board battles against those much older—and bigger—than him with ease. He has no serious weakness, and his peak self can be unlocked by Michkov.

Michkov needs an uber-smart linemate like Helenius to truly be at his best. Helenius has a lot of playmaking upside, which can make him and Michkov one of the great dynamic duos in Flyers history—could you imagine a Selke Trophy center with a 100-point winger? But then, picture this: the Orange and Black also take Eiserman, who is one of the best goal-scoring prodigies that we have seen enter the draft in years.

A lot of people have Eiserman, a left-winger, falling due to his “one-dimensional,” nature, but there is a lot to like about his game. He’s not as cerebral as Helenius and definitely not as responsible in all three zones, but what he does have is the best shot in the draft—it’s not even really close. His goal-scoring instincts surpass anyone else, which could be maximized in the Flyers’ system. As the left wing to a couple of elite playmakers like Helenius and Michkov, those three could do magic. If anyone were to make this happen, it would be a savvy GM like Briere.

Danny Briere Philadelphia Flyers
Danny Briere of the Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

If the Flyers had a first line like that combined with the rest of the young pieces they have now, there wouldn’t be much more work to do. Suddenly, they would be exiting the rebuild. Again, they might want to add a middle-six forward or two or get some help on defense, but they would be in a position where they don’t desperately need talent. Once you don’t need talent, that’s when your rebuild essentially ends and you are free to do whatever you want—the Flyers could use some freedom. The sooner they acquire talent, the sooner Wells Fargo Center can be decked out in orange and we can hear the booming “Let’s Go Flyers,” chants throughout the stadium in the postseason.

The Flyers have the pieces, but they just need the desire to go out and make a move. Being aggressive in the 2024 NHL Draft could make everyone happy—the organization wouldn’t have a serious incentive for “tanking,” in the 2024-25 season, and they’d also have a very bright future. Will they stay the course, or make a big move to bulk up their prospect pool that needs help?

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