What Percentage of NHL Draft Picks make it to the NHL?

Being selected by a squad in the NHL’s top draft is a major accomplishment. But playing in your first NHL match is quite another thing. There is no assurance that anyone selected in the initial round of the draft will ever participate in the National Hockey League. Only about 800 players compete in the NHL every season which is the top hockey sport in the world. 

How many players selected make it to the NHL? What percentage of NHL draft picks make it to the NHL? A skater that is selected by an NHL team will typically make it to the NHL in 49% of cases. It indicates they will participate in at least one NHL match.

If you want to get a better idea about it, you will have to read a bit more information that is given in this article. Let’s go ahead!

What deems that a player has made it to the NHL?

To start with, you must clarify what it takes for a skater to make the NHL. The NHL is highly competitive, so I believe one match is a good standard to use when analyzing how many skaters are selected in the draft.

Percentage Of NHL Draft

Every skater who has only appeared in one, two, or three NHL games desires they have the opportunity to play in more. But they all proudly respond “yes” when asked if they got the league as they should. As you can see, most skaters only perform for a short time and only a few skaters enjoy it for a long time.

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What percentage of players from each NHL draft have made it to the NHL?

Here is a list of every NHL Draft from 2004 to 2020 along with the proportion of picks that continued to play in the league:

Draft YearPercentage Played in the NHL

Average 2004-2014:

You will notice that the ratio begins to decline after the 2015 season. It is because some of those talented skaters are still competing for a position in the lower leagues and have to perform their first match.

If not all, the majority of the players selected before the 2014 draft have either gotten it to the NHL or not. So, while calculating the average number of players that make the NHL, you can take a conservative approach and use data from 2004 to 2014. This will provide an adequate sample size to obtain an accurate picture.

There are still some 2014 draftees who have yet to appear in a match. But the small number of them will be statistically given the size of the sample. Therefore, 49.1% of players selected in the draft participated in at least one NHL game between 2004 and 2014.

Is that more or less than you expected? It was more than I expected. You can’t imagine that at least half of all players selected would participate in an NHL game. Another statistic that can shock you was the fact that 59% of the skaters selected in one season played in at least one match. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was selected as the first pick in that draft. So, there wasn’t a ton of top-tier talent, but it ended out that there was a ton of excellent quality.

When is it too late to expect to play in the NHL for a player?

It is typical for 5–6 skaters who are 18 years old to join the NHL after each new draft. Generally, the first two or three selections get it that are made in the draft along with a few from the remainder of the draft.

Making the NHL at the age of 18 is challenging, and only the best players will succeed. The majority of the players selected in an NHL entry draft will experience their first NHL play 3 to 4 years after being selected. 

Based on this, they would be between 21 and 22 years old. They will continue to improve their skills at the junior level which increases until this time. They will have their first experience of pro hockey in a weak league or within one of the European leagues.

So, their chances of ever participating in an NHL game significantly decrease if they haven’t achieved NHL rank within 5 or 6 years of their draft season.

It is not difficult, but NHL clubs don’t have much space on their squads for skaters who are 25 years old and older than this and they haven’t shown they can compete in the league.

Even in the NHL league, it is commonly assumed that when a player reaches the age of 25, they have reached the peak of their success and that you simply will have what you pay for.

A skater who is in their mid-20s and hasn’t been in an NHL match by this age will already have the tag “little leaguer.” And once that tag has been applied, it can be difficult to remove. 

Goaltenders are the only exception to this rule. As goalkeeper is among the most challenging positions to perform, goalkeepers are famous for taking longer to grow. A goalkeeper cannot become recognized in the NHL until they are in their mid-20s.

So, it is likely that you will not be given that opportunity if you were drafted into the NHL and have not played in an NHL game within 5 or 6 years of your draft year. 

The majority of them are aware of this and will either have moved to Europe to participate in one of their teams, have returned to school, or have begun a new job.

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What percentage of players make it from each round of the draft?

There are 7 stages in the NHL entry draft. Per round, every side has one option. Due to Vegas and Seattle’s absence, there were 30 draft picks available for the majority of the sample.

What proportion of the 30 players selected in each round joined the NHL?

RoundsPercentage of Players to play an NHL Game 

The previous rounds had a greater proportion than the later rounds. Since I did not anticipate it to be that excellent, I was surprised that the first round scored 94%. 

The research demonstrates that top executives and recruiters are skilled at identifying and evaluating talents. The clear pattern is that it gets harder for individuals to make the NHL each phase than it did the round before.

The fact that 26% of skaters selected in the 7th phase went on to perform in the NHL, can shock you once more. Although it’s not very high, you might have anticipated that it would be considerably lower.

Conclusion: What Percentage of NHL Draft Picks make it to the NHL?

So, keep in mind the next time you see an NHL amateur draft only around half of the young players selected will ever play for an NHL club. But if you are simply following the initial round of the draft, you can guarantee that the skater your team chooses will at least receive a cup of coffee at the highest level. What percentage of NHL draft picks make it to the NHL is a different matter. 

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