Should the NHL Shorten the Draft?

For as long as I can remember, the NHL Entry Draft has been seven rounds. There was a point in time when the NHL actually had nine rounds. If you dive into the history of the NHL Entry Draft, you can find a time when the NHL had 22 and 25 rounds for an NHL Entry Draft.

Mostly, the NHL carried 10-12 rounds from 1980 to 1994 before finding nine as the sweet spot number from 1995 to 2004. The NHL adopted a seven-round draft in 2005 as the dawn of a new hockey era, Alexander Ovechkin was the last first overall pick in a nine-round draft and Sidney Crosby was the first ever first overall pick in a seven-round draft.

Elliotte Friedman Breaks The News

Elliotte Friedman mentioned on his 32 Thoughts podcast that some player agents believe that the NHL Entry Draft should be shortened to four rounds. Friedman also follows this up with the possibility of the NHLPA fighting for a shorter draft in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

It is mentioned that the reasoning for this is the players, mostly the later-round picks and people (mostly agents) are stuck wondering why a player is tied to a team for anywhere between two to four years and not getting an NHL contract from the team that drafted them.

The main thing that isn’t taken into consideration here is that playing in the NHL is something the players have to work for and that extends beyond just being drafted into the NHL.

Taking the developmental camp and team resources away from later-round picks is not the answer. This would potentially take jobs away from scouts and remove the statistic that the top 224 17-20-year-olds who are drafted become the 1% that were drafted into the NHL.

Why This Wouldn’t Be A Good Idea

By shortening the NHL Entry Draft, you lessen that top 224 17-20-year-old margin into the top 128 which becomes less than 1% that are drafted into the NHL. Most would argue that it would show that working towards the NHL and being drafted in a later round is still an honour and shows the dedication needed to have on your resume that you were drafted into this league.

I took to X (formerly Twitter) to voice an idea earlier today. Rounds one to four should remain the same entire setup as it is currently while rounds five to seven should have a different setup.

If you are drafted in rounds one to four, your rights with the team are based on the current rules in the CBA. If you are drafted in rounds five to seven and don’t sign an NHL contract three weeks before the next NHL Entry Draft, your rights either expire and you become an unrestricted free agent, or you reenter the draft.

I also mentioned that eliminating draft rounds wouldn’t solve the problem. The current NHL CBA expires at the end of the 2025-26 season, so a solution to keep around 200 players drafted each year must be found. There are 32 teams in the NHL, having less than that would make sense for a shorter draft.

The next NHL CBA will depend on whether the NHL and NHLPA agree to change the draft rules or leave the NHL Entry Draft unchanged.

Conrad Jack

Conrad Jack is a lifelong hockey fan who is now actively writing for Inside The Rink covering primarily the Winnipeg Jets and the entire NHL second. He also covers the latest NHL News & Rumors, the NHL Entry Draft, and so much more for Inside The Rink.

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