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How Many NHL Draft Picks Make it to the NHL?

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One of the all-time great draft steals: Luc Robitaille, selected 171st overall in 1984.

One of the all-time draft steals: Luc Robitaille, selected 171st overall in 1984.

Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Question: How Many NHL Draft Picks Make it to the NHL?
Over 200 players are selected at every NHL draft. How many of them go on to have NHL careers? What are the prospects for a player selected in the first round of the NHL Draft compared to later rounds?
Answer: To properly evaluate a draft, you need a few year's distance from it. So let's look at the 1990s.

To define whether a player "makes it," let's set the threshold at 200 NHL games. We'll call them "career players."

Between 1990 and 1999, there were 2,600 names called at the NHL Entry Draft.

As of 2007, 494 of those players have appeared in at least 200 NHL games. That's a success rate of 19 percent.

But of course, not all draft picks are created equal. The guys picked in the first round are a cut above the rest:

Success rate of first-round draft picks

  • Of the 494 career players drafted in the 1990s, 160 were selected in the first round.
  • Of those 160 career players, over half have played more than 500 NHL games.
  • Among the older players (those drafted from 1990 to 1994), six first-round picks have made it to 1,000 games. Another couple of dozen are still active and within reach of 1,000.
  • Based on the 1990s sample, a first-round draft pick has a 63 percent chance of being a career player.

    Results can vary widely from year to year:

  • The 1993 NHL Draft produced 22 career players from 26 first-round picks.
  • In 1999, less than half of the first-round selections went on to become career players (12 out of 28).

    Beyond the first round.

    This is where the NHL dream begins to fade in a hurry:

  • From 1990 to 1999, about one-quarter of the players selected in the second round turned into NHL career players.

    Those drafted in the third round and beyond are really up against it.

  • From over 2,000 players selected in the third round and beyond during 1990s, just 261 made it as NHL career players. That's about 12 percent.
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