Decoding the NHL Draft: Why Does the NHL Have 7 Rounds of Drafts?

Benjamin Kenyon

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NHL Have 7 Rounds of Drafts

The NHL Draft is a cornerstone event for hockey enthusiasts, a time when the dreams of young talents converge with the hopes of franchises aiming to secure their next superstar. 

For avid fans and casual observers alike, the structure of the NHL Draft, with its seven rounds, might raise a fundamental question: Why does the NHL have 7 rounds of drafts? 

In this blog post, we’ll delve into the rationale behind the NHL’s decision to have seven rounds in its draft, exploring the intricate web of factors that have shaped this process. 

From promoting competitive balance and discouraging tanking to accommodating a global talent pool and encouraging strategic trades, the NHL’s draft format is far from arbitrary. 

It’s a well-thought-out system designed to uphold the league’s values and objectives. So, stay focused. 

NHL Have 7 Rounds of Drafts

The Purpose of the NHL Draft

The National Hockey League (NHL) Draft serves several crucial purposes within the league. Firstly, it is the primary means by which NHL teams acquire young talent. 

The draft provides a fair and competitive platform for teams to select the best available players from various junior leagues, college programs, and international competitions.

Secondly, the NHL Draft helps maintain a competitive balance in the league. The worst-performing teams from the previous season are granted higher draft picks, allowing them to potentially rebuild and improve more quickly. 

This system helps prevent perennially dominant teams and promotes parity among franchises.

Furthermore, the draft is an opportunity for teams to strategize and make trades. Teams can trade draft picks, current players, or future considerations to address immediate needs or secure future assets.

The draft serves as an exciting event for fans, generating anticipation and hope for the future.

It showcases the next generation of hockey stars and allows fans to connect with their teams on a deeper level as they watch their favorite franchises shape their futures.

The Evolution of the NHL Draft

The Evolution of the NHL Draft

The NHL Draft has evolved significantly since its inception in 1963. Over the years, several key changes and developments have shaped the draft into what it is today:

Expansion of Rounds

The early drafts were relatively short, with only a few rounds. As the league expanded and the talent pool grew, more rounds were added to accommodate the increasing number of players selected.

Entry Age and Eligibility

Initially, the draft was open to players aged 17 to 20. This age range has evolved, with the current eligibility rules allowing players who turn 18 by September 15 of the draft year to be eligible. 

This change has allowed younger prospects to enter the league.

Lottery System

The introduction of a lottery system in 1995 aimed to prevent “tanking” by struggling teams to secure top draft picks. 

The lottery determines the order of selection for the first overall pick, with the odds weighted in favor of the teams with worse records.

International Players

With the globalization of hockey, the draft has become more international. Players from Europe, Russia, and other regions are now an integral part of the draft, contributing to the league’s diversity.

Undrafted Players

In recent years, the NHL has seen undrafted players make a significant impact in the league. 

This has led to the emergence of college free agents and late bloomers who were not initially drafted but eventually signed by NHL teams.

Central Scouting

The NHL Central Scouting Bureau was established to provide teams with comprehensive scouting reports and rankings of draft-eligible players, helping teams make more informed decisions.

Event and Fan Engagement

The NHL Draft has transformed into a major event, often accompanied by fan festivals and interactive experiences. 

It’s an opportunity for fans to engage with their favorite teams and the future stars of the league.

Online Streaming

With the advent of the internet, the draft has become more accessible to fans worldwide. The live streaming of the event allows fans to follow the draft in real time, regardless of their location.

Trades and Wheeling-Dealing

The draft has also become a platform for teams to make trades, involving picks, prospects, and current NHL players. This adds an element of excitement and unpredictability to the draft.

The NHL Draft has evolved to reflect changes in the game of hockey, the league’s expansion, and the evolving needs of its teams.

Why Does the NHL Have 7 Rounds of Drafts?

The NHL has seven rounds in its annual draft for several reasons, primarily related to the league’s need for talent acquisition, competitive balance, and logistical considerations:

Talent Pool

Hockey has a deep talent pool, with players coming from various junior leagues, college programs, and international competitions. 

Seven rounds provide enough opportunities for teams to select players who can contribute to their future success.

Competitive Balance

The NHL places a strong emphasis on competitive balance. By having seven rounds, the league ensures that even the weakest teams have multiple chances to acquire talent and improve. 

This helps prevent a few dominant teams from monopolizing top prospects.

Expansion Teams

As the NHL has expanded over the years, adding new franchises, the number of draft rounds has remained consistent. New teams need to build their rosters, and seven rounds allow them to do so effectively.

Variety of Positions

Hockey teams require players in various positions, including forwards, defensemen, and goaltenders. Seven rounds enable teams to address their positional needs and build a well-rounded roster.

Late Bloomers and Development

Some players develop later than others. The later rounds of the draft provide an opportunity for teams to discover hidden gems that may not have been highly touted in their earlier years but have the potential to become valuable assets.

Draft and Trade

Teams often use later-round picks as assets for trades. The more rounds there are, the more options teams have for making deals, which adds another layer of strategy to the draft.

Global Talent

With the globalization of hockey, the NHL draft includes players from around the world. Seven rounds accommodate the international talent pool and allow teams to scout and select players from different countries.


Holding a multi-round draft is a logistical challenge, and seven rounds strike a balance between giving teams opportunities to select players and keeping the event manageable in terms of time and resources.

The NHL’s decision to have seven rounds in its draft is a result of careful consideration of the league’s goals, including maintaining competitive balance, fostering talent development, and accommodating the needs of both new and existing teams.

How Is The NHL Draft Order Determined?

The NHL Draft Order Determined

The NHL Draft order is determined through a combination of factors, primarily designed to promote competitive balance and fairness. The key methods for determining the draft order include:

Regular-Season Standings

The primary factor in determining the NHL Draft order is the regular-season standings of all the teams. The team with the fewest points (i.e., the worst regular-season record) is awarded the first overall pick in the draft. 

The team with the second-worst record gets the second pick, and so on. This system encourages parity by giving weaker teams the opportunity to select the best young talent.

Draft Lottery

To prevent teams from intentionally “tanking” or losing games to secure higher draft picks, the NHL introduced a draft lottery system for the top few selections. 

The lottery is typically used to determine the top three picks. Teams that did not make the playoffs have a chance to win the lottery and move up in the draft order.

Expansion Teams

When an expansion team joins the league, they are usually awarded the first overall pick in their initial entry draft. This helps them build a competitive roster from the start.


The draft order can also be influenced by trades. Teams can trade their own picks or the picks they have acquired from other teams. This can lead to teams moving up or down in the draft order based on their trade activities.

Compensatory Picks

In certain situations, the NHL may award compensatory picks to teams that have lost players to free agency. These picks are typically awarded at the end of a specific round and do not affect the regular draft order.

Priority for Unselected Players

In some rounds, if a team passes on making a selection, they forfeit that pick but retain the right to pick later in the round if they choose. This allows teams to pass on a selection without losing their overall draft position.

It’s important to note that the NHL Draft order can vary slightly from year to year due to the draft lottery and other factors.

Financial Benefits of Having 7 Rounds in the NHL Draft

Having seven rounds in the NHL Draft offers several financial benefits to the league, its teams, and the players involved:

Revenue Generation

The NHL Draft has become a significant event, attracting attention from fans, sponsors, and media. 

By having seven rounds, the league can extend the duration of the draft, increasing opportunities for advertising, merchandise sales, and ticket sales for those attending the event in person. 

The extended coverage also means more advertising revenue for television and online streaming.

Fan Engagement

The extended draft provides more opportunities for fan engagement. Fans have more time to follow the event, discuss potential picks, and become invested in the future prospects of their favorite teams. 

This heightened fan engagement can lead to increased merchandise sales, ticket sales, and overall fan loyalty.

Player Entry Fees

The NHL collects an entry fee from each player who enters the draft. With more rounds, there are more players entering the draft, resulting in increased revenue from these entry fees. This revenue goes into the league’s coffers.

Marketing and Sponsorship Opportunities

Each draft pick represents a potential marketing opportunity for the NHL and its teams. 

As more players are selected in additional rounds, there are more prospects for marketing partnerships, endorsements, and promotional campaigns, which can lead to increased revenue through sponsorships and licensing deals.

Development and Player Contracts

Having more rounds means that more players are drafted by NHL teams. These players often sign entry-level contracts, which contribute to the league’s overall player salary structure. 

While entry-level contracts have salary limits, they still represent a financial commitment to the players.

Trade Activity

Additional draft rounds create more assets for teams to trade. Teams can trade their own draft picks, acquire additional picks, or package picks with players in trades. 

These transactions can result in financial benefits for the teams involved.

Scouting and Player Development

NHL teams invest significant resources in scouting and player development programs.

With seven rounds, teams have more opportunities to find and develop talent, potentially leading to a more competitive and financially successful franchise.

Having seven rounds in the NHL Draft offers financial benefits by increasing revenue opportunities through extended fan engagement, marketing, sponsorship deals, player entry fees, and player contracts.


Why does the NHL have seven rounds in its draft?

The NHL has seven draft rounds to ensure competitive balance. Teams with weaker records get higher picks, giving them a chance to improve. 

It also accommodates the deep talent pool, includes international players, and allows for trades, promoting a fair and equitable talent acquisition process.

How does the NHL prevent teams from tanking to get higher draft picks?

The NHL uses a draft lottery system for the top picks to deter tanking. Teams that didn’t make the playoffs have a chance to win a lottery, ensuring that the worst teams don’t automatically get the top selections.

Can teams trade their draft picks in the NHL Draft?

Yes, teams can trade their draft picks, allowing for strategic moves and flexibility. This adds an extra layer of complexity to the draft as teams can acquire additional picks or use them as assets in trades for established players.

Are there compensatory picks in the NHL Draft?

Yes, in certain situations, the NHL may award compensatory picks. These are typically given to teams that have lost players to free agency. Compensatory picks are usually granted at the end of specific rounds.

How does the NHL Draft order impact expansion teams?

When an expansion team joins the league, they are typically awarded the first overall pick in their initial entry draft. 

This helps new teams build competitive rosters from the start and encourages fan interest in the expansion franchise.

Wrapping Up

The seven rounds of the NHL Draft stand as a testament to the league’s commitment to fairness, competition, and inclusivity. 

While it may seem like just a number, it embodies the NHL’s dedication to maintaining a level playing field, showcasing talent from around the world, and ensuring that every franchise has a shot at building a championship-caliber team. 

As we eagerly anticipate each draft, let’s remember that beyond the excitement and anticipation, the seven rounds tell a story of how the NHL continually evolves to create a more vibrant and balanced future for the sport we all love. Thank you so much. 

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Benjamin Kenyon

With over eight years of experience in higher education, I bring a diverse skill set to the Head Men's Ice Hockey Coach role. My background spans collegiate hockey coaching, recruiting, compliance, budget management, game operations, public and media relations, marketing strategies, content development, social media management, press release distribution, broadcasting, video production, non-linear editing, sports photography, interpersonal communications, sports writing, interviewing, sports analytics, and statistics. My educational credentials include a Master of Arts in Sports Management, further enhancing my qualifications for this position. I am proficient in various software and platforms, including Adobe Creative Suite, social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, LinkedIn), and academic management systems (Salesforce, CAMS, Workday, Banner). My extensive experience and technical proficiency make me a well-rounded candidate for leading the men's ice hockey program.

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