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GM Danny Briere explains why Flyers passed on Zeev Buium

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GM Danny Briere explains why Flyers passed on Zeev Buium

The Philadelphia Flyers put themselves at the center of online controversy during the first round of the 2024 NHL Draft, and now they explained their reasoning hours later.

As the Flyers held the 12th-overall pick in their hands, players started to get selected one-by-one and fans started to get a little anxious. Players that were projected to go much higher, began to slip — just like what happens every single year — and then it suddenly becomes a real possibility that the Flyers could be selecting a player that should have been taken much earlier. It happened with Matvei Michkov and we have seen how that turned out.

So, when University of Denver defenseman Zeev Buium was suddenly available at 12th overall, and the Flyers had the chance to take him — a player who some ranked as high as third or fourth-overall on their list, and almost certainly seemed like a lock to be selected in the first 10 picks — we all felt a sudden surge of excitement of a draft steal.

Instead, the Flyers opted to trade down exactly one spot, in a swap with the Minnesota Wild for 13th overall and got a 2025 third-rounder for moving down. The Wild promptly ran to the podium to select Buium, and next up the Flyers selected speedy center Jett Luchanko — a player most had in the late-first round.

In a vacuum, that is a disappointing series of events for a very online fan. Buium was hyped up as potentially the best defenseman coming out of this draft class and a future winner, and the Flyers directly decided to not draft him and selected the center Luchanko instead.

But after the dust settled, Flyers general manager Danny Briere got to explain the team’s decision to opt for Luchanko instead of Buium. When asked if size was an issue, as the defenseman is just 6-foot, Briere essentially confirmed that it is.

“Well, when you look at our defense, you have it right. I think Zeev Buium is gonna be a great player, and he’s someone we considered strongly. But with Cam York, Jamie Drysdale, Emil Andrae – at some point, it gets tough to go with the smaller guy. But he’s a fantastic player,” Briere said via PHLY’s Charlie O’Connor.

That is certainly what was being told to everyone leading up to Friday. The Flyers wanted to get a bigger blue line, since the long-term pieces as Briere mentioned — York, Drysdale, Andrae — are all on the smaller side. If they added Buium to the mix, they would almost handcuff themselves into have a solid-but-smaller group of defensemen and that is not something they wanted to do.

Instead, they got a center who is one of the youngest players in the draft class — has more room to grow — and makes plays at an incredibly high pace. There is lots to love about Luchanko on the ice and considering the balance of it being a position they desperately need help in, and the preference to not draft another high-end, small defenseman, the decision was made final.

Briere also commented how Luchanko’s position factored.

“There (were) other good players in that area, also, that we were considering,” Briere said via PHLY’s Charlie O’Connor, “but there wasn’t a big enough difference to go in a different direction. Taking a center was an important piece for us.”

Tie goes to the center. From what we can tell, the Flyers preferred to take a centerman and they clearly viewed that Luchanko’s ceiling and potential and what he can be in the NHL, is not that far off from Buium, or potentially a winger who they were thinking about with that pick.

Obviously, time will tell but the reason for the decision was at least clear and we aren’t here wondering what they were thinking.

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