How does the NHL entry draft work? A complete guide

A hockey lover would always wonder what he must get to do in order to get drafted into professional leagues like NHL. The whole process through which a player is ultimately selected is very interesting to apply for once we get to know it. So you might wonder what exactly is the NHL draft and how the NHL draft work.

The National Hockey League (NHL) draft is a selection process in which teams in the NHL choose amateur players to play for their team. The draft occurs every year and is conducted as an entry draft (for players who have already turned 18). The entry draft takes place in June, and each team gets to select one player from among those available. 

The NHL entry draft is comprised of a total of seven rounds initially which includes 31 choices in each round. That is what we are going to talk about in this article.

How does the NHL entry draft work? 

The NHL Entry Draft is an annual event that occurs in June, and it’s where the best players from youth hockey leagues across North America are selected by NHL teams.
The draft lasts seven rounds and is divided into two parts:

  • The first three rounds are made up of players who are 18 years old or younger and have not yet played a game in major junior hockey.
  • The remaining four rounds are made up of players who are 19 years old or older, but still eligible to play in major junior hockey.
  • Each team has a selection order based on how they finished in the previous season, with teams that made the playoffs picking earlier than those that did not. 
  • Teams can trade these picks to other teams, but they cannot trade their first-round picks or their second-round picks if they have one of the top ten picks overall.

The NHL Entry Draft is considered by many to be an important part of any team’s success in the following season. Teams that are able to draft well can build a more competitive team by acquiring young talent that can develop into superstars and become valuable assets for their teams.

As with all drafts, there are rules about how players are ranked and selected: the first-round picks are selected in reverse order from the previous season’s standings, and then teams alternate picks until all 30 teams have selected one player. It is also one of the most anticipated events each year, as it is an opportunity for teams to fill out holes in their rosters and improve their chances of winning a championship

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How do they determine the order in which teams choose?

The draft order is determined by taking the points each team earned during the previous season and then using a weighted lottery system to determine the order in which teams choose. The teams with the lowest records are given the first pick, and the ones with the strongest teams are given the last pick.

In the first round of the draft, each team selects one player from a pool of players who have not yet signed with an NHL team. 

The order of these picks is determined by lottery: all 30 teams submit their choices to a random drawing, and those teams whose names are drawn can choose their first-round pick from any available player.

After the first round, there are three more rounds of selections before teams are done drafting new talent. In these later rounds, only players who have not reached age 19 will be eligible as selections, so teams must be careful not to draft players who are too old when they’re making picks in these rounds.

The order in which teams are allowed to choose players is based on their performance from the previous season. Teams that perform poorly during one season will have lower draft picks than teams that performed well. 

Here is an outline of the NHL Lottery:

The NHL draft lottery is a weighted system that gives the teams with the worst records the highest odds of winning the first pick. Since 1994, the lottery has been conducted to identify the method of selection for the very first 15 picks in the NHL draught. The remaining 30 picks are ordered by regular-season points (excluding games played against teams from other leagues).

The lottery has been held annually since 1995 to determine which team will receive the first overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft. Teams can only move up a maximum of 4 spots, and no team can move down more than one spot. Since 2012, all non-playoff teams have had a chance at winning the top pick; prior to 2012, only teams that finished with one of the league’s six worst records were eligible to win it.

  • The lottery determines only the first three picks in each round, with all other teams selecting in reverse order based on their regular-season point totals.
  • If multiple teams have identical records at the end of the year, tiebreaking procedures are applied in order to break these ties. The tiebreaking procedure used depends on how many teams are tied together.
  • If there are two or three teams tied together, they are separated into groups of two and one respectively until they are no longer tied.
  • If there are four or more teams tied together, they are separated into groups of three until they are no longer tied (until only two groups remain). Then, those two groups are joined by any remaining teams that were still tied after being separated.

The lottery consists of three draws, with the team with the lowest regular-season point total winning the first pick, the second-worst team winning the second pick, etc.

  • If a team wins multiple draws, it will be awarded additional highest picks based on those draws.
  • The higher a team finishes in its conference, the less likely it is to win one of the top three picks.

What are the weighted lottery odds?

The NHL-weighted lottery odds are a little more complex than they seem. The NHL uses a lottery system to distribute first-round draft picks to teams that did not qualify for the playoffs.

The squad with the lowest record in the NHL at the tail end of the season has the best chance of winning the lottery under this method. The team with the second-worst record will have a slightly lower chance than that, and so forth until you get to teams with good records. Then, those teams have an equal chance of winning the lottery.

In other words, if you’re on a bad team, your odds are better than if you’re on a good team.
The lottery odds are as follows:

  • 1st pick – 25% chance
  • 2nd pick – 19.9% chance
  • 3rd pick – 14.2% chance

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Can teams trade their draft choices?

Yes, teams can trade their NHL draft choices. It is relatively unusual for couples to exchange draught picks in the same round. A team may have a high pick in a particular round and will trade it to another team if they don’t feel that there are any prospects available at that spot that would help them win games.


There are many reasons why a team might want to make such a trade, but some of the most common motives for doing so include:

  •  To balance out weaknesses in their roster. If one team has too many defensemen, it may be advantageous for them to trade one away and get more help on offense.
  • To gain an advantage over the competition by acquiring a better player than they would have been able to get in the draft. This can happen when teams that rely heavily on young players have a better chance of getting those players when their picks are lower in the first round because they will be more likely to still be available when their picks come up.
  • To get rid of bad contracts or bad players who are preventing them from making moves to improve their roster as much as possible.

What happens if a drafted player does not get signed by their team?

NHL teams are allowed to develop their own players, but they must also be able to sign them. If a team drafts a player and does not sign that player within two years, the NHL will draft back a comparable player in that same position for the team that did not sign their original pick.
If a selected player is not signed by an NHL team, he or she is returned to the draft. This is called “re-entry.” The player is put into the draft again and can be picked up by any team.


The only exception to this rule is that if a player has been drafted in multiple years, they cannot be re-drafted. If a player is drafted by more than one team, they are allowed to negotiate with both teams but only one team can offer them an entry-level contract (ELC). The other team must wait until after their ELC expires before making a contract offer.

Strategy within the NHL draft

The NHL Draft is a great time for hockey fans to get excited about the future of their team. The draft is also an exciting time for teams, who are looking to add young talent that can help them win games in the future.

Before you go to an NHL Draft or watch one on TV, there are a few points to keep in mind about it. These tips can help you understand what’s going on during the draft and why it’s important for teams to make sure they have a good strategy in place when drafting players.

Draft picks are divided into two categories: Picks in the first and second rounds.

  • Teams will often trade away their first-round pick or another player in order to get another player they want.
  • Teams often try to build their team by drafting players from their local area or region (like an American kid who grew up playing hockey in Canada).

For hockey enthusiasts, the NHL draft is also one of the most important events in a young player’s career, as it can mean the difference between success and failure in hockey. To help you get ready for this year’s draft, we’ve created a guide on how to prepare for it. We’ve broken down our strategy into five steps:

  • Gather information about your prospect
  • Analyze that information
  • Examine tendencies in the NHL and other professional sports leagues.
  • Create a fake draught board.
  • Keep an eye out for sleeper candidates.

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Chances of making the NHL for players drafted

Players’ prospects of making the NHL differ depending on where they were selected. For example, if a player is drafted in the first round, they have a far greater chance of playing in the NHL than if they are drafted in the later rounds.

The NHL draft is a big event in the life of any young hockey player. It’s a chance to make it to the big leagues and play professional hockey, but how likely is it that you’ll actually make it?

The answer depends on where you were drafted and what position you play. For example, if you’re a goalie and you were picked in the first round, your chances of making it are much higher than if you were picked in the third round as a forward.

If you’re an offensive player like a forward or defenseman, your chances are best if you were drafted in the first round. If you’re a goalie or center, your chances increase with each subsequent round of the draft.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where does the Nhl draft take place?

The NHL draft takes place in a different city each year and is hosted by the team that had the worst record in the previous season. This team also has the first pick in the draft and then picks alternate with the other teams until all players have been selected.

What are the age requirements for the Players entering the draft? 

The age requirements for players entering the draft are:
Players must be 19 years old or younger on December 31 the year they enter the draft. Players who are at least 20 years old and have completed their fourth season in college basketball are eligible to enter

Are all players eligible for the draft?

No, because, in order to be eligible for the draft, players must be at least 18 years old and not enrolled in high school or college. They must also meet certain physical standards (height and weight) and must have completed their high school education or graduated from a two-year college.

Is the draft the only way to get into the NHL?

No, the draft is not the only way to get into the NHL. Players can also be signed as free agents, traded for, or signed to try-out contracts. Additionally, players can come to the NHL from other leagues, such as college hockey or European professional leagues.

Conclusion: How does the NHL entry draft work?

The NHL draft works in a particular way: teams are assigned a number of picks at different stages of the draft (1st round, 2nd round, etc.). The order in which these picks are made is based on how well teams performed during the previous season. The worst team gets the first to pick and so on until all teams have made their selection.

Teams can trade away or acquire more picks throughout the year leading up to the draft as well as during it. This means that there is no guarantee that any team will be able to select who they want when their turn comes around. Because another team could take them before them (which is why trades can be so important). I hope you will find this article useful for understanding how does NHL draft work.

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