How many players are in the NH (Current Number of NHL players)

How Many Players Are In The NHL (2023 Update)

Upholding the title of the biggest, most revered, and most popular ice hockey team in the world, the NHL, since its inception has built large numbers in growth and size. Since the increase in the number of franchises in the league in 2021 with the addition of the Seattle Krakens, the league has an additional roster of players. 

Breakdown Of Total Number Of NHL Players (NHL 2022-23)

Breakdown of NHL Players For The 2022-23 Season

Currently, the number of active players in the NHL is 1058. This is based on the addition of all the players in the league, based on Nationality. Of the 1058 players present in the NHL for the 2022-23 season, only 107 of them are goaltenders. 

This is the breakdown of the entire players in the NHL based on the position they play:

PositionNo. Of Players
Right Wing126
Left Wing154
Forward (Not specifically wing or center)46
Breakdown of players in the NHL for the 2022-23 season from Hockey Reference

How Does Player Limits Affect The Roster Size In The NHL

Types of Players Limit For NHL Team

There are limits to the number of players an NHL team can have at certain points. For example, from the end of the NHL preseason up to the trade deadline, NHL teams are not allowed to have more than 23 players on their roster. 

This can also be called the 23-player active roster limit. Aside from these, there are other limits such as the dressed list, contract maximum limit, and max reserve list.

20-player Dressed List 

The 20-player limit in the NHL is the limit on the number of players a team can dress up for a game. Simply, if an NHL franchise is gathering players for a game, the maximum number of players they are allowed to dress and bring to the arena for the game is 20. 

As a standard pattern, the breakdown of the twenty players goes as follows:

  • Two goalie 
  • Three lines of defense (total of six defensemen)
  • Four lines of offense (total of twelve forwards)

This pattern is not rigid and can be bent by the coaches of an NHL team to any division they see fit. However, it is very uncommon for the composition of the players to differ from the style above. 

In addition, the skaters to be chosen as the twenty-dressed players for a match must be from the 23 active NHL players list of the team. The list of the 20 dressed players is submitted to the NHL official (either the referee or NHL scorer) by a team’s head coach. 

23-player Active NHL Player Limit

Even though a team can only dress 20 players for a game, they are allowed to have a total of 23 players on their active roster. The players on the active rosters who are not on the dressing list can be substituted with those on the dressing list at any time. 

In addition, this 23-active player limit is placed from the end of the NHL preseason till 12:01 am on the day of the trade deadline. This is done so that NHL teams are able to acquire as many players as they need for the playoffs. 

50-player Contract Maximum Limit

50 Player Contract Maximum

The 50-player contract limit in the NHL has a wider scope and capacity than the first two limits. This limit counts all the players signed under a Standard Player Contract (SPC) in a team.

All the players on a team’s roster make up part of the 50-player list as well as a wide margin to add more signed players. Teams are mandated to have at least 24 players and three goalies on the contract list. 

This list takes up all the players given a contract by an NHL team, whether they are playing in the NHL, a minor league, on a one-way or two-way contract, or are on the injured reserve list. In summary, the limit to the number of active contracts a team can have in the NHL is 50.

Most frequently, NHL teams do their best not to fill up the freedom on their 50-player contract limit so that they would possess the mobility to make roster movements such as trade, waive claims, or player signing. 

90-player Maximum Reserve List  

Finally, we have the 90-player maximum reserve list. This list gives a max-margin of 90 players for a team to accommodate all the players it signed a Standard Player Contract with, every player on its injured reserve, and even players it is yet to sign

The unsigned players are a team’s draft picks who are yet to receive an offer for an NHL contract. The reason they are added to this group is that NHL teams have a two-year hold over the rights of a drafted player

In summary, all the players a team owns or has control over their rights make up the reserve list. However, they are not allowed to have more than 90 players on their reserve list. 

In summary, since an NHL team can not have more than 50 active contracts, they have 40 free spots to add unsigned or drafted players. 

Number Of NHL Players In The 2021-22 Season

Breakdown of NHL players for the 2021-22 season

The number of NHL players in the course of the 2021-22 season is 1,123. This figure is gotten from the addition of the skaters and goalies in that season. The number of skaters in the NHL for the 2021-22 season was 1,004 while the number of goaltenders for the season is 119. 

Here is the breakdown of the players in the team based on the position that they play., 

Position No. Of Players 
Right Wing135
Left Wing159
Forward (Not specifically wing or center45
Breakdown of players in the NHL for the 2021-22 season from Hockey Reference

Number Of NHL Players In The 2020-21 Season

The 2020-21 season in the NHL saw a total of 1,011 NHL players in total. This number is split between 913 skaters and 98 goalies. The table below shows the distribution of the players based on the position they play.

PositionNo. Of Players
Right Wing119
Left Wing139
Forward (Not specifically wing or center)37
Breakdown of players in the NHL for the 2020-21 season from Hockey Reference

Comparing The Number Of Players In The NHL To The NBA

Comparing No. of NHL and NBA players

Between the NBA and the NHL, which league do you think has more players? Well, if you pick the NHL you are correct. The NHL has 32 teams in comparison to the 30 teams of the NBA and has more players on their roster.

While the number of players in the NHL averages about 1000 each season, the number of players in the NBA averages around 500 each season. This is about half of the total number of players in the NBA. 

The table below shows the number of players in the NBA in comparison with the NHL. 



This brings us to the end of this topic on the number of players that are in the NHL and the reason for the player limit each team can have at any given time. In addition, the number of players a team can add to its roster or sign a contract with is based on its cap size for that season.

Thanks for reading.

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