NHL entry draft
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The NHL Entry Draft: All You Need To Know

NHL fans get very excited about the NHL entry draft because it gives teams the chance to sign players who could just be the next great thing. Every time a youthful draft is added to the squad, ice hockey fans have great hopes. Sidney Crosby, who has built a name for himself in ice hockey, is a prime example of this.

The complete NHL entry draft process will be covered in this article.

What Is An Entry Draft In The NHL?

what is the NHL draft entry

Each year, every National Hockey League team congregates for the NHL Entry Draft in order to pick recognized ice hockey players who satisfy the requirements for the draft. This indicates that it is a meeting when NHL clubs choose young players they wish to add to their squad from a junior league or collegiate league.

Young ice hockey players can join the NHL through the draft from junior, collegiate, and even European professional leagues. During its inaugural year in 1963, the event was the NHL Amateur Draft. Since then, it has given young hockey players the chance to sign a NHL contract with an NHL team and be linked with an NHL franchise ever since it was founded.

Players Who Qualify For NHL Drafts

Players must fulfill a few eligibility conditions in order to be eligible for the NHL entry draft. The prerequisite depends on the player’s age and level of expertise.

One of the basic requirements for players before they can qualify for the drafts is that they must be 18 years old. Only players who will be 18 years old on or before September 15 (the day of the draft) are included as eligible draft picks.

Just as the minimum age requirement is 18, the maximum requirement is 20 for North American players and 21 for players from Europe and other countries.

  • North American Players (18-20 years)
  • European/International Players (18-21 years)

Similarly, players who will be above 20 (for North America) or 21 (European/International) by December 31 of the draft year will not qualify for the draft. 

In terms of experience, the players on the NHL draft are mostly from these three categories:

  • Major junior leagues in Canada and the United States, such as the CHL (Canadian Hockey League), CJHL (Canadian Junior Hockey League), USHL (United States Hockey League), NAHL (North American Hockey League), and more.
  • European junior and senior men’s hockey league
  • National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCCA): An athletic body that governs colleges, universities, and confederations

How The NHL Entry Draft Works

There are seven rounds of selection in entry drafts. Each NHL team (there are 32 of them) chooses one player from a list of players in each round. Overall, there are typically 224 junior league players selected in each draft season (7 rounds of 32 selections).

Once every team has selected a player, a round is over, and then the second, all the way to the seventh round.

During the first round of the draft, teams frequently select the players with the highest talent and value. Who gets first dibs on players is chosen in a systematic manner. It follows a routine that always happens in the same sequence. Let’s talk about it next

How To Determine the NHL draft order 

How to determine the draft order

The NHL favors lesser clubs when it comes to the selection order (who gets the first pick in the selection of entry drafts). As a result, the franchise with the first choice is the group that finished last in the previous year.

Here is the basic order that determines who ranks first to last in the selection order

  • Pick 1-16: Teams that didn’t qualify for the playoffs in the previous season. 
    The order is based on the reverse order of their standing in the previous season (least-ranked team to teams with better ranking)
  • Pick 17-24: Teams that made the playoffs but did not win their division in the regular season
  • Pick 25-28: Teams that won their division but did not play in the Conference Finals in the previous season.
  • Pick 29 and 30: Teams that lost the Conference Finals
  • Pick 31: The team that was the runner-up to the Stanley Cup
  • Pick 32: The team that won the Stanley Cup 

Any team that wins the Stanley Cup usually has the last pick among the 32 franchises in each round.

This order of arrangement changes during the first pick because of the NHL draft lottery. More on the draft lottery is explained in this article. 

How Many Rounds Are In the NHL draft?

The entry drafts include seven rounds, as was already mentioned.

The selection order in round one is not exclusively determined by the clubs’ reverse season-ago rankings. Instead, the lottery draft result will determine the final sequence of selections (coming to that in a minute).

The usual selection rule is followed after the first round; simply put, from the second round through the seventh round. As a result, the club with the lowest rating receives the first pick, while the Stanley Cup winner receives the last pick.

When and Where  Does The NHL Draft Take Place?

Every year, two to three months following the end of the regular season, the NHL holds its entry draft. It usually lasts for two days and starts in the latter part of July.

The NHL draft was conducted in Montreal, Quebec, according to records, from 1963 through 1984. Just Montreal hotels, league offices, and forums were used as the venues of the draft at this time.

Finally, in 1987, the NHL started switching up the site of the draft every year. Detroit’s Jose Louis Arena served as the site of the first NHL draft held outside of Canada. The Bell Center in Montreal, Quebec, served as the site of the 2022 NHL Draft, which was held there on July 8–9.

However, the 2023 NHL draft was held in Bridgestone Arena, Nashville Tennessee. Check out the list of all the arenas in the NHL ranked based on seating capacity

YearNHL Draft LocationCountry
2019Rogers ArenaVancouver, British Columbia
2020NHL Network StudioSecaucus, New Jersey
2021NHL Network StudioSecaucus, New Jersey
2022Bell CenterMontreal, Quebec
2023Bridgestone ArenaNashville, Tennessee

Can You Play In The NHL Without Being Drafted?

Yes. A player who is too old to be drafted immediately becomes a free agent, and he is then free to sign an NHL contract with any team of his choosing.

Sadly, if you are an undrafted player at first, the road to the NHL is not as clear-cut. The NCAA and other European and American university hockey leagues are the most likely destinations for an undrafted player who becomes a free agent.

Scouts may later ask them for a tryout in a minor league if they exhibit extraordinary skill. If they are successful, they could sign with a minor league organization for the first time.

After playing in the minor leagues, they have a chance to play in the NHL if they showcase talent and skill. The NHL has this method in place even though it calls for perseverance and determination. These are a few well-known ice hockey players that rose through the ranks despite not being selected in any drafts.

Some Famous undrafted players 

PlayersNHL Teams
Wayne GretzkyEdmonton Oilers
Dan BoyleTampa Bay Lightning
Adam OatesBoston Bruins
Joe MullenSt. Louis Blues
Mark GiordanoToronto Maple Leafs
Brian RafalskiNew Jersey Devils
Chris KunitzPittsburgh Penguin
Daniel GirardiNew York Rangers
Rich Peverly Boston Bruins

What Is The NHL Draft Lottery?

The NHL draft lottery is a drawing that randomly decides the sequence in which the clubs with picks Nos. 1 through 16 are selected. The draw allows the lowest-ranked club a chance to select first overall in the entrance draft.

Teams That Qualify For NHL Draft Lottery 

Only NHL teams who missed the playoffs the previous season are eligible to participate in the draft lottery. In the NHL’s previous season’s reverse ranking, this translates to the top 16 players.

How Does The NHL Draft Lottery Work 

NHL draft lottery

A weighted lottery will be held for each of the 16 clubs that did not advance to the playoffs. Each club is allocated odds of winning the lottery in decreasing order, thus the team that finished worst in the previous season’s rankings has a larger percentage chance of winning than teams with a better rating.

Let’s say the Anaheim Ducks came last in the previous season, and the Edmonton Oilers have the best ranking of the 16 teams. If the winning percentage is given, the Anaheim Ducks will have a higher percentage, and this will reduce until it gets to the Edmonton Oilers. 

The winning percentage determines how likely it is for a team to win the draw. Below is the distribution of the draft odds for the 2022 NHL draft lottery. 

Ranking (lowest ranking to highest ranking)PointOdd Percentage
Columbus Blue Jackets 3318.5%
Chicago Blackhawks 3413.5%
Anaheim Ducks 3711.5%
Arizona Coyotes 389.5%
San Jose Sharks 418.5%
Vancouver Canucks 437.5%
Montreal Canadiens 446.5%
St. Louis Blues496%
Ottawa Senators 495%
Detroit Redwings503.5%
Philadelphia Flyers 513%
Florida Panthers542.5%
Nashville Predators 542%
New York Islanders 551.5%
Buffalo Sabres 560.5%
Calgary Flames 570.5%

Changes To The NHL Draft Lottery Over The Years 

Changes to the draft lottery


In the NHL, the draft lottery has evolved with time. It started out with just a team being able to win the draft lottery from 2013 to 2015. During this period, teams that came out as lottery winners were allowed to advance as far as they wanted up the draft order. As a result, it meant that if a club won the lottery, they automatically received the first pick in the first round of the draft.


Three winners will receive the first, second, and third picks between 2015 and 2020, according to the lottery rules. The team in first place in the draft then dropped no more than three slots in the selection order. As a result, they will be placed above the other teams in the fundamental hierarchy.


In 2021, the NHL reduced the lottery to include just two winners who would be given the first and second picks. This means the arrangement of the remaining 14 teams will be below the two winners (they are arranged from lowest to highest in the previous season’s ranking).


The 2022 lottery draft will be the subject of the most recent modification to the newly enacted NHL draft rule. This regulation maintains the notion that there will only be two winning teams from the draft; however, it does not give them the right to choose first by default.

Based on this new modification, each lottery winner is limited to moving no more than 10 slots. This implies that the top 11 teams are the only ones eligible to receive the first pick. When considering teams ranked 12th through 16, although they get the opportunity to climb up the ranking, they cannot advance more than 10 spots. 

In a nutshell, it means they do not receive the first draft pick.

The draft lottery’s effect on standing only applies to the first round; it is vital to remember. While determining who receives the first choice from the second through the seventh round, fundamental rules are followed (solely based on the backward ranking of the previous season).

Who won the NHL draft lottery in 2021 and 2022?

The Buffalo Sabres won the draft lottery and had the first overall selection in the 2021 entry drafts. After the Seattle Krakens lost the second selection to the Anaheim Ducks, the Sabres were in second place. Owen Power, a defenseman from the University of Michigan, was chosen first by the Sabres.

The Montreal Canadiens won the draft lottery and held the first overall pick in 2022. The Canadiens ultimately decided on Juraj Slafkovsky as their first overall selection. Juraj received praise for his accomplishments at the 2022 Winter Olympics, when he earned MVP.

Top 10 Overall Draft Picks For The 2022-23 Season

The 2022-23 NHL draft was the 61st NHL entry draft and it was held on the 28 and 29th of June at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. The lottery draft that was held from the 16 NHL teams that didn’t make the playoffs saw the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks as the winners.

Winning the lottery draft gave them the first and second overall draft selection privilege respectively. The table below shows the top 10 overall picks for the 2022-23 NHL draft.

Draft RankingPlayersNHL Team
1Connor BedardChicago Blackhawks
2Leo CarlssonAnaheim Ducks
3Adam FantilliColumbus Blue Jackets
4William SmithSan Jose Sharks
5David ReinbacherMontreal Canadiens
6Dmitriy SimashevArizona Coyotes
7Matvei MichkovPhiladelphia Flyers
8Ryan LeonardWashington Capitals
9Nate DanielsonDetroit Red Wings
10Dalibor DvorskýSt. Louis Blues

Can A Team trade its NHL Draft pick? 

Teams have the option to exchange draft picks for a superior replacement. As opposed to lesser teams, high-ranking clubs are occasionally more inclined to trade their draft pick.

Very often, a franchise wants a certain professional player on another team when it offers or proposes the trading of draft selections. The first picks are frequently exchanged when it comes to draft picks since these guys are frequently the most valued.

On the same draft day, draft selections can also be exchanged. Before making a trade offer, some teams frequently wait until their draft selection is on the clock. However, it is not the same every time, as in a few instances, NHL teams could wait a few weeks before the playoffs begin before moving for a trade.

The majority of the time, an underperforming club trades its draft selection with a team with a higher chance of making the playoffs. This is a tempting offer to the club receiving the trade because it allows them a chance to acquire new talent in return for a player already on their roster—possibly the next Sidney Crosby.

Percentage of drafts that make the NHL

Not every draft pick ends up playing in the NHL after they are selected. Also, not every draftee gets signed by NHL franchises. The likelihood of a draft selection playing in the NHL is determined by the round in which he is selected by an NHL team. The table below shows the probability range of draft picks at each round of selection playing in the NHL.

*Player Score: This is the score of drafted players who played at least 100 games out of the total number of drafted players

RoundPlayer ScorePercentage
1120 out of 18066.7%
250 out of 18726.7%
331 out of 18017.2%
427 out of 18414.7%
516 out of 1878.6%
618 out of 1829.8%
713 out of 1867%
Research By Jamie Bisson

The likelihood of players selected in the draft who are not chosen in the first selection is decreasing, as seen in the table. There is a 66.6% likelihood that first-round picks will participate in at least 100 NHL games.

Sadly, the second-round draft picks cannot say the same because they have a 40% lower likelihood of participating in 100 NHL games. The tendency continues to decline until the seventh round when the likelihood of making the NHL drops to 7%.


The NHL draft has grown in significance for ice hockey. NHL teams discovering the potential that exists in junior leagues has contributed to its growth, which is becoming increasingly significant. The NHL has seen an increase in efforts by teams and scouts to choose the finest player possible.

There it is—a thorough overview of the NHL entry draft. I sincerely hope this was instructive.

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