The NHL Entry Draft (French: Repêchage d'entrée dans la LNH) is an annual meeting in which every franchise of the National Hockey League (NHL) systematically select the rights to available ice hockey players who meet draft eligibility requirements (North American players 18–20 years old and European/international players 18–21 years old; all others enter the league as unrestricted free agents). The NHL Entry Draft is held once every year, generally within two to three months after the conclusion of the previous regular season. During the draft, teams take turns selecting amateur players from junior or collegiate leagues and professional players from European leagues.
The first draft was held in 1963, and has been held every year since. The NHL Entry Draft was known as the NHL Amateur Draft until 1979. The entry draft has only been a public event since 1980, and a televised event since 1984.
Up to 1994, the order was solely determined by the standings at the end of the regular season. In 1995, the NHL Draft Lottery was introduced where only teams who had missed the playoffs could participate. The lottery winner moved up the draft order a maximum of four places, meaning only the five worst teams, based on regular season points in a given season, could pick first in the draft, and no team in the non-playoff group could move down more than one place. The chances of winning the lottery were weighted towards the teams at the bottom of the regular season standings. From 2013 to 2015, there was no limit of moving up in the draft order, so the lottery winner would automatically receive the first overall pick, and any teams above it in the draft order would still move down one spot. From 2015 to 2020, there were three lottery winners that received the top three picks, and any teams above it in the draft order would move down no more than three spots. In 2021, the lottery system was changed to include two lottery winners, and they received the top two overall picks, and any teams above it in the draft order would move down no more than two spots.
Beginning in 2022, the two lottery winners are limited to move up no more than ten places in the draft order, meaning that only the bottom eleven teams based on regular season points, could win first pick in the draft. If a team outside the bottom eleven teams wins the first draft lottery they move up ten spots (e.g. fourteenth team wins the lottery and moves up to fourth overall) and lowest finishing team from the previous season is then awarded the first overall selection.
The first NHL Entry Draft (at that time known as the "NHL Amateur Draft") was held on June 5, 1963, at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, Quebec. In 1967, NHL president Clarence Campbell and Canadian Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA) president Fred Page announced a new tentative five-year agreement on August 19, 1966, with several proposed changes to the existing system, effective July 1, 1967. The direct sponsorship of junior teams by the NHL was to be phased out in the upcoming year, and no new sponsored players could be registered or be required to sign a contract restricting movement between teams. The agreement eliminated the A, B and C forms, which had angered the parents of amateur players and were the source of legal action threats when the professional team refused to release a player. Junior-aged players became eligible for the draft once they graduate from junior hockey, or to be signed as a free agent in the year the player reaches his 20th birthday. The NHL agreed to pay development fees to the CAHA for the drafted players. The new agreement came at a time that also leveled the playing field for new NHL clubs in the 1967 NHL expansion.
In 1979, the rules were changed allowing players who had previously played professionally to be drafted. This rule change was made to facilitate the absorption of players from the defunct World Hockey Association. Consequently, the name of the draft was changed from "NHL Amateur Draft" to "NHL Entry Draft". Beginning in 1980, any player who is between the ages of 18 and 20 is eligible to be drafted. In addition, any non-North American player over the age of 20 can be selected. From 1987 through 1991, 18 and 19-year-old players could only be drafted in the first three rounds unless they met another criterion of experience which required them to have played in major junior, U.S. college and high school, or European hockey.
In 1980, the Entry Draft became a public event, and was held at the Montreal Forum. Prior to that year the Entry Draft was conducted in Montreal hotels or league offices and was closed to the general public. The first draft outside of Montreal was held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in Toronto, Ontario, in 1985. Live television coverage of the draft began in 1984 when the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation covered the event in both English and French for Canadian audiences. The 1987 Entry Draft, held at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan, was the first NHL Draft to be held in the United States. SportsChannel America began covering the event in the United States in 1989.
Prior to the development of the Draft, NHL teams sponsored junior teams, and signed prospects in their teens to the junior teams. Players were signed to one of three forms: the "A" form, which committed a player to a tryout; a "B" form, which gave the team an option to sign a player in return for a bonus; and the "C" form, which committed a player's professional rights. The "C" form could only be signed by the player at age eighteen or by the player's parents, often in exchange for some signing bonus. The first drafts (up until the 1968 Amateur Draft) were held to assign players who had not signed with an NHL organization before the sponsorship of junior teams was discontinued after 1968.
The selection order in the NHL Entry Draft is determined by a combination of lottery, regular season standing, and playoff results. While teams are permitted to trade draft picks both during the draft and prior to it (sometimes several years prior), in all cases, the selection order of the draft picks is based on the original holder of the pick, not a team which may have acquired the pick via a trade or other means. The order of picks discussed in this section always references the original team.
The basic order of the NHL Entry Draft is determined based on the standings of the teams in the previous season. As with the other major sports leagues, the basic draft order is intended to favour the teams with the weakest performance who presumably need the most improvement in their roster to compete with the other teams. Subject to the results of the NHL Draft Lottery (discussed below), the teams pick in the same order each round, with each team getting one pick per round. The basic order of the picks is determined as follows:
The number of teams in the second and third group depends on whether the Conference finalists also won their division. The teams in each group (other than the Stanley Cup winner and runner up) are ordered within that group based on their point totals in the preceding regular season (with the lowest point total picking first). Tie-breakers are governed by the same rules used to determine ties in the regular season standings. The order of picks 1–16 may change during the first round of the draft based on the results of the NHL Draft lottery. In the subsequent rounds, the basic order based on point totals is used.
When teams lose their rights to a first-round draft choice, because that player was not signed to a contract and consequently re-entered the entry draft or became an unrestricted free agent, they are awarded a compensatory draft pick. This selection will be the same numerical choice as the first round draft pick who was not signed, but in the second round. For example, if a team cannot sign the seventh overall first round draft choice, it will receive the seventh pick in the second round of the next draft as compensation.
At the conclusion of the regular season, the 16 teams that did not qualify for the playoffs are entered in a weighted lottery to determine the initial draft picks in the first round. The teams are seeded in the basic draft order based on their regular season point totals. The odds of winning the lottery are weighted on a descending scale that gives the greatest chance of winning to the team with the lowest point total (18.5%), and the worst chance to the team with the highest point total (1.0%).
The prize for winning the draft lottery is to be upgraded to pick first in the first round of the draft, with each team that preceded the winner in the basic draft order bumped one pick lower. For example, if the team with the 5th worst point total wins the lottery, it would pick first, and the teams with the worst through 4th-worst records would pick second through fifth. The remaining teams would be unaffected. The teams would return to the basic order for the second and all subsequent rounds.
From its inception through 2015, there was one winner of the lottery; from 1995 to 2012, the team that won the draft lottery moved up no more than four positions in the draft order. If the winner of the lottery was among the five worst teams in a given season, that team won the first pick in the draft. Otherwise, the team will move up no more than four spots, and that team will not receive the first pick in the draft; from 2013 to 2015 the lottery winner received the first pick overall regardless of regular season point totals amongst the non-playoff teams. Beginning with the 2016 draft and lasting until the 2020 draft, the first three selections were determined by the lottery. Any team that did not make the playoffs had a weighted chance to select in the first, second or third slot. Beginning in 2021, only two draws will be held for the first two selections. Starting with the 2022 lottery; the teams winning one of the two lotteries will only be allowed to move up a maximum of ten spots in the draft order and teams will only be allowed to win the lottery twice in a five year period. The remaining teams maintain their order of selection based on the points accrued the previous season. As the top two slots are determined by the lottery, no team can drop more than two places from the position established based on previous season point totals.
The NHL Draft Lottery takes place just before or during the Stanley Cup playoffs and is hosted at Sportsnet's studios in Toronto from 2015 onwards. From 2006 to 2014, the draft lottery took place at TSN's studios in Toronto. The odds for the first overall pick are determined as follows:
All players who will be 18 years old on or before September 15 and not older than 20 years old before December 31 of the draft year are eligible for selection for that year's NHL Entry Draft. In addition, non-North American players aged 21 are eligible.
|Draft||Location||City||Date||Rounds||Total drafted||No. 1 pick|
|1963||Queen Elizabeth Hotel||Montreal, Quebec||June 5, 1963||4||21||Garry Monahan (Montreal Canadiens)|
|1964||June 11, 1964||4||24||Claude Gauthier (Detroit Red Wings)|
|1965||April 27, 1965||3||11||Andre Veilleux (New York Rangers)|
|1966||April 25, 1966||4||24||Barry Gibbs (Boston Bruins)|
|1967||July 7, 1967||3||18||Rick Pagnutti (Los Angeles Kings)|
|1968||June 13, 1968||3||24||Michel Plasse (Montreal Canadiens)|
|1969||June 11, 1969||10||84||Rejean Houle (Montreal Canadiens)|
|1970||June 11, 1970||13||115||Gilbert Perreault (Buffalo Sabres)|
|1971||June 10, 1971||15||117||Guy Lafleur (Montreal Canadiens)|
|1972||June 8, 1972||11||152||Billy Harris (New York Islanders)|
|1973||Mount Royal Hotel||May 15, 1973||13||168||Denis Potvin (New York Islanders)|
|1974||NHL Montreal Office||May 28, 1974||25||247||Greg Joly (Washington Capitals)|
|1975||June 3, 1975||18||217||Mel Bridgman (Philadelphia Flyers)|
|1976||June 1, 1976||15||135||Rick Green (Washington Capitals)|
|1977||June 14, 1977||17||185||Dale McCourt (Detroit Red Wings)|
|1978||Queen Elizabeth Hotel||June 15, 1978||22||234||Bobby Smith (Minnesota North Stars)|
|1979||August 9, 1979||6||126||Rob Ramage (Colorado Rockies)|
|1980||Montreal Forum||June 11, 1980||10||210||Doug Wickenheiser (Montreal Canadiens)|
|1981||June 10, 1981||11||211||Dale Hawerchuk (Winnipeg Jets)|
|1982||June 9, 1982||12||252||Gord Kluzak (Boston Bruins)|
|1983||June 8, 1983||12||242||Brian Lawton (Minnesota North Stars)|
|1984||June 9, 1984||12||250||Mario Lemieux (Pittsburgh Penguins)|
|1985||Toronto Convention Centre||Toronto, Ontario||June 15, 1985||12||252||Wendel Clark (Toronto Maple Leafs)|
|1986||Montreal Forum||Montreal, Quebec||June 21, 1986||12||252||Joe Murphy (Detroit Red Wings)|
|1987||Joe Louis Arena||Detroit, Michigan||June 13, 1987||12||252||Pierre Turgeon (Buffalo Sabres)|
|1988||Montreal Forum||Montreal, Quebec||June 11, 1988||12||252||Mike Modano (Minnesota North Stars)|
|1989||Met Center||Bloomington, Minnesota||June 17, 1989||12||252||Mats Sundin (Quebec Nordiques)|
|1990||BC Place||Vancouver, British Columbia||June 16, 1990||12||250||Owen Nolan (Quebec Nordiques)|
|1991||Buffalo Memorial Auditorium||Buffalo, New York||June 22, 1991||12||264||Eric Lindros (Quebec Nordiques)|
|1992||Montreal Forum||Montreal, Quebec||June 20, 1992||11||264||Roman Hamrlik (Tampa Bay Lightning)|
|1993||Colisée de Québec||Quebec City, Quebec||June 26–27, 1993||11||286||Alexandre Daigle (Ottawa Senators)|
|1994||Hartford Civic Center||Hartford, Connecticut||June 28, 1994||11||286||Ed Jovanovski (Florida Panthers)|
|1995||Edmonton Coliseum||Edmonton, Alberta||July 8, 1995||9||234||Bryan Berard (Ottawa Senators)|
|1996||Kiel Center||St. Louis, Missouri||June 22, 1996||9||241||Chris Phillips (Ottawa Senators)|
|1997||Civic Arena||Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania||June 21, 1997||9||246||Joe Thornton (Boston Bruins)|
|1998||Marine Midland Arena||Buffalo, New York||June 27, 1998||9||258||Vincent Lecavalier (Tampa Bay Lightning)|
|1999||FleetCenter||Boston, Massachusetts||June 26, 1999||9||272||Patrik Stefan (Atlanta Thrashers)|
|2000||Canadian Airlines Saddledome||Calgary, Alberta||June 24–25, 2000||9||293||Rick DiPietro (New York Islanders)|
|2001||National Car Rental Center||Sunrise, Florida||June 23–24, 2001||9||289||Ilya Kovalchuk (Atlanta Thrashers)|
|2002||Air Canada Centre||Toronto, Ontario||June 22–23, 2002||9||290||Rick Nash (Columbus Blue Jackets)|
|2003||Gaylord Entertainment Center||Nashville, Tennessee||June 21–22, 2003||9||292||Marc-Andre Fleury (Pittsburgh Penguins)|
|2004||RBC Center||Raleigh, North Carolina||June 26–27, 2004||9||291||Alexander Ovechkin (Washington Capitals)|
|2005||Westin Hotel Ottawa1||Ottawa, Ontario||July 30, 2005||7||230||Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins)|
|2006||General Motors Place||Vancouver, British Columbia||June 24, 2006||7||213||Erik Johnson (St. Louis Blues)|
|2007||Nationwide Arena||Columbus, Ohio||June 22–23, 2007||7||211||Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks)|
|2008||Scotiabank Place||Ottawa, Ontario||June 20–21, 2008||7||211||Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay Lightning)|
|2009||Bell Centre||Montreal, Quebec||June 26–27, 2009||7||211||John Tavares (New York Islanders)|
|2010||Staples Center||Los Angeles, California||June 25–26, 2010||7||210||Taylor Hall (Edmonton Oilers)|
|2011||Xcel Energy Center||St. Paul, Minnesota||June 24–25, 2011||7||211||Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Edmonton Oilers)|
|2012||Consol Energy Center||Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania||June 22–23, 2012||7||211||Nail Yakupov (Edmonton Oilers)|
|2013||Prudential Center||Newark, New Jersey||June 30, 2013||7||211||Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado Avalanche)|
|2014||Wells Fargo Center||Philadelphia, Pennsylvania||June 27–28, 2014||7||210||Aaron Ekblad (Florida Panthers)|
|2015||BB&T Center||Sunrise, Florida||June 26–27, 2015||7||211||Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers)|
|2016||First Niagara Center||Buffalo, New York||June 24–25, 2016||7||211||Auston Matthews (Toronto Maple Leafs)|
|2017||United Center||Chicago, Illinois||June 23–24, 2017||7||217||Nico Hischier (New Jersey Devils)|
|2018||American Airlines Center||Dallas, Texas||June 22–23, 2018||7||217||Rasmus Dahlin (Buffalo Sabres)|
|2019||Rogers Arena||Vancouver, British Columbia||June 21–22, 2019||7||217||Jack Hughes (New Jersey Devils)|
|2020||NHL Network studios2||Secaucus, New Jersey||October 6–7, 2020||7||2163||Alexis Lafreniere (New York Rangers)|
|2021||July 23–24, 2021||7||2233||Owen Power (Buffalo Sabres)|
|2022||Bell Centre||Montreal, Quebec||July 7–8, 2022||7||225||Juraj Slafkovsky (Montreal Canadiens)|
|2023||Bridgestone Arena||Nashville, Tennessee||June 28–29, 2023||7||TBD||TBD|
SportsChannel America began covering the NHL Draft in the United States with the 1989 NHL Entry Draft being the first NHL draft ever televised.