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What is the NHL Draft and how does it work?

NHL Entry Draft
NHL Entry Draft

2017 NHL Entry Draft” by Brandon Zeman is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 .

This year’s NHL Draft takes place on June 28th and 29th at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, but what is the Draft, and why is it so important?

The 2022-23 NHL season finished earlier this month with the Vegas Golden Knights defeating the Florida Panthers in the Stanley Cup Finals, but now we’re already looking ahead to 2023-24 with the annual NHL Entry Draft.

The Draft offers every NHL franchise the chance to gain the rights to eligible players for the new season, drafting the hottest talent from colleges, junior leagues and foreign leagues. These players need to be between 18 and 20 years old.

History of the NHL Draft

The Draft dates back 60 years to June 1963 when it was known as the NHL Amateur Draft and took place at a hotel in Montreal. Back then it was all done behind closed doors and wasn’t open to the public until 1980, becoming a televised event four years later. 

Another major development took place in 1995 with the introduction of the NHL Draft Lottery. Before that, the order was decided by the standings at the end of the season, with priority given to those who finished lower in order to keep the NHL competitive. 

The Draft Lottery was set up to add a bit more of an element of chance to the order, mostly to prevent teams from deliberately tanking at the end of a season – losing games on purpose so they know they can have first selections of the latest new talent. 

This actually happened in 1984, with the Pittsburgh Penguins tanking so they could replace the New Jersey Devils in last place, giving them first shot at the Draft. Their reward? Mario Lemieux, who led them to back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992.

How does the NHL Draft Lottery work?

Ok, this gets complicated but stay with us. 

The first 16 picks go to the teams that didn’t make it to the play-offs the previous season, followed by those that did get through but didn’t win their division or play in the Conference Finals. After that it’s those that won their division but didn’t play in the Finals, then those that lost in the Finals, followed by the Stanley Cup runners-up and, finally, the winners.

To be honest, there’s a lot more complexity at play here but you only need to really know the outcome of the Draft Lottery, which determines the order in which teams get to make their selections in the Draft itself. 

How does the NHL Draft work?

There are seven rounds, so each team gets the chance to select seven new players – though this doesn’t always happen as teams can trade draft picks so some can have more picks in a certain round. 

The first round of the Draft this year takes place on June 28th, with the following rounds happening the next morning. The Chicago Blackhawks have won the Draft Lottery, so get first pick ahead of the Anaheim Ducks and Columbus Blue Jackets. As Stanley Cup champions, the Vegas Golden Knights are in last place.

The likely top Draft picks this year include Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli, William Smith, Matthew Wood, Leo Carlsson and Matvei Michkov. Will any of them go on to make history like previous Draft picks like Lemieux, Brendan Shanahan or Scott Niedermayer? Only time will tell.

Written and distributed by Chat T Sports.

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