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NHL Entry Draft Part 1

Coming up this weekend, June 20 – 23rd is the 2019 NHL Entry Draft hosted in Vancouver, BC. Whether you are a long-time hockey fan or just taking an interest as Seattle prepares to join the league in 2021, you might not be familiar with the innerworkings of the NHL Entry Draft. So in preparation for the draft, I am putting together a 2-part series to help those interested get a better understanding. Part 1 will be a high-level overview of who gets drafted while Part 2 will be what to expect from the players that get drafted.

How the Draft works

On the surface, the NHL Entry Draft works similarly to the NFL, NBA, or MLB drafts. The NHL Entry Draft consists of seven rounds, with each round consisting of the same number of selection choices as there will be Clubs in the League in the following League Year. The draft order is determined based on a “Worst to First” order of the most recent completed season. However, the top 3 teams of the draft order are determined by a weighted lottery system of teams that did not qualify for the playoffs. Here is a look at this year’s draft order.

Who gets drafted

Where the NHL Draft differs from the NFL, NBA, and MLB is the source of the drafted players. The NFL drafts players almost exclusively from NCAA teams while MLB drafts players primarily from High School and NCAA team. The NHL drafts from various leagues, countries, and levels across the world. Last year there were players drafted from 37 different leagues.

The most prominent playing level from which draft picks are chosen is Major Junior. Major Junior is the highest amateur league for 16 to 20-year-olds in Canada and some northern US cities. The leagues at the Major Junior level are the OHL, QMJHL, and WHL. The Seattle Thunderbirds and Everett Silvertips are part of the WHL. The Major Junior equivalent in the US is referred to as Tier 1. Tier 1 hockey is the highest amateur league for 16 to 20 year-olds to play in the US. Tier 1 is made up of the USHL and the US National Team Development Program. Major Junior is made up of over 80% Canadian citizens, where Tier 1 is made up of over 80% US citizens. A nuance between Major Junior and Tier 1 is that the Major Junior players lose NCAA eligibility where Tier 1 players retain their NCAA eligibility.

Drilling down in the Major Junior/Tier 1 split across leagues, you can see that the OHL tends to have the most players drafted in any year, followed by the WHL and QMJHL.
 The volume by league shifts year to year, but the USHL/NTDP has been growing steadily over the last 20 years.

The next biggest group of players are international players, primarily made up of the top Russian, Finnish and Swedish hockey players. The makeup of players in the international leagues vary with countries having a mix of junior, pro, and other various leagues.

I hope that gives you a slightly better understand of the NHL Entry Draft. This year’s draft will be held in Vancouver on June 21st & 22nd and will be aired on NBCsn on Friday and NHL Network on Saturday. 1st round is Friday starting at 5pm PST and rounds 2 through 7 will start airing on Saturday at 10am PST.

Keep a look out for Part 2 of this series where I will focus on the expectations of the draft picks including when we might get to see them play in the NHL.

John Barr
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