The NHL Entry Draft consists of seven rounds, with each team assigned one pick in each round. Draft picks can be traded at any time.
The Draft Lottery
The selection order in the first round is subject to a lottery, held among the teams that hold the first 14 picks. There is only one winning team in the lottery. That team is awarded the first overall selection.
More about the NHL Draft Lottery.
Players who turn 18 by September 15 and are not older than 20 by December 31 are eligible for selection. In addition, non-North American players over the age of 20 are eligible.
A North American player who is not drafted by the age of 20 is an unrestricted free agent. All non-North Americans must be drafted before being signed, regardless of age.
Re-entering the Draft
A player not signed by his NHL team within two years of being drafted can re-enter the draft, as long as he is 20 years old or younger at the time of the subsequent draft. Players over 20 become unrestricted free agents.
NCAA players are an exception: NHL teams retain the rights to a college player until 30 days after the player has left college.
A team that does not sign a first-round draft pick is awarded a compensatory pick in a future draft upon losing the rights to that player.
A player who has been drafted a second time cannot re-enter.