How does the NHL Entry Draft work? NHL draft explained
From selection order to the draft lottery, our guide contains everything you need to know about the NHL Entry Draft.
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What is the NHL draft?
The NHL Entry Draft is an annual event which gives every franchise in the National Hockey League the opportunity to strengthen their rosters by acquiring the rights to eligible players.
Players can be drafted from college, junior leagues, or professional leagues abroad.
When is the NHL draft?
The draft is usually held in June every year, two or three months following the conclusion of the NHL season.
The 2021 NHL Entry Draft is currently scheduled to take place in June, but that is likely to be delayed because the 2020/21 season is set to start later than normal.
The 2020 draft took place between 6-7 October, with the season not finishing until 28 September due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Where does the NHL draft take place?
The draft is hosted by one of the 31 NHL franchises, with the venue determined by the league after a bidding process.
Who is eligible for the NHL draft?
Players from North America must be 18 years old by 15 September or under 20 years old by 31 December in the year of the draft.
American players who go undrafted past the age of 20 become unrestricted free agents, meaning they are free to sign with any team.
Players from outside North America must be drafted before they sign with an NHL team, and are therefore eligible past the age of 20.
How does the NHL draft work?
The 31 NHL franchises are entered into a selection order that is determined by several different factors.
Principally, like all major American sports, the draft order is designed to favour the weakest teams who performed poorly in the previous season.
The basic order is therefore determined as follows:
- The teams that failed to qualify for the playoffs.
- The teams that made the playoffs but did not finish top of their division or make the Conference Finals.
- The teams that finished top of their divisions but did not make the Conference Finals.
- The teams that lose in the Conference Finals.
- The team that lost in the Stanley Cup Finals.
- The team that won the Stanley Cup.
The exact order of teams within each group is determined by their points tally from the previous regular season – the team with the lowest tally will pick first.
What is the NHL draft lottery?
The selection order is further affected by the draft lottery.
The 15 teams that did not qualify for the playoffs in the previous season are entered into a lottery to determine who gets the first three picks of the draft.
The odds of winning the lottery are weighted towards the teams with the lowest points tallies from the previous season.
The team with the worst record has an 18.5 per cent chance of winning the lottery, while the team with the 15th-worst record has a 1 per cent chance.
The teams that do not win one of the top three selections in the lottery remain in the order determined by regular-season records.
For example, if a team registers the worst regular season record but does not win any of the top three selections in the lottery, they will pick fourth.
The lottery only determines the top three selections, so no team can drop more than three slots down the order.
How many rounds of the draft are there?
Each draft is comprised of seven rounds, meaning each team is allocated seven potential selections every year.
This does not necessarily mean, however, that every team will draft seven players in every draft. This is because teams are allowed to trade draft picks.
How do trades work?
Draft picks are essentially commodities for NHL teams – they can include future draft picks as assets in trades.
For example, one team may trade a player and a future first-round pick for a player from another team.
This means that in every draft there are teams with the rights to more than one selection in a particular round, or no selections in a particular round.
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