NHL Draft Pick Probabilities

Jokke Nevalainen



Whenever an NHL draft is approaching, the excitement level and hype around the players go through the roof. It’s an exciting time for sure but it seems like most people don’t have realistic expectations when it comes to the draft. To help with that, I decided to look at a 10-year span of draft classes to see how many NHL players have come out of those and what are the odds of finding an NHL player in each round of the draft.


I chose draft classes from the year 2000 to the year 2009. I wanted to take the most recent draft class possible but I couldn’t take a draft class that was too recent because those players wouldn’t have had a chance to make it in the NHL, so that is why I landed on that 10-year span. I copied the draft results from www.hockey-reference.com and started playing around with the results on Excel.


During this span of time, there were NHL drafts that had nine rounds with a maximum of 291 selections but there were also drafts with seven rounds and 210 selections. Vegas didn’t have a team back then, so there were 30 teams. Because of this, I only used the first 210 selections from each draft class and ignored the rest to have comparable results.


Please notice that I’m not a mathematician or an analyst. There are a lot of people who are way more qualified to do this type of an analysis. But I love charts and I love playing around with numbers on Excel, so that’s what I did here. My goal wasn’t to create some ground-breaking analytical breakthrough but instead provide results that are easy to understand and maybe even remember.


Without further ado, let’s go through the results.


NHL players per draft class


First of all, let’s look at how many NHL players have come out of each draft. I used three thresholds. The smallest one was 100 NHL games played because I don’t think you can truly say you’ve found an NHL player if they don’t play at least 100 games in the NHL. The other thresholds were 200 and 300 games played. These were just for fun more than anything else.



The 2003 draft class stands out as the best during this 10-year span which is no surprise because it is the one everyone uses as an example when discussing strong draft classes. The 2006 draft was arguably the worst, although there are a few draft classes that are up there amongst the worst.


There are a few individuals who could still work their way up from where they are right now but only a few, so even if we looked at these draft classes again in 10 years, there wouldn’t be much of a change here.


If you want to take something simple out of this to remember for the future, it’s that an average draft class produces about 60 NHL players (between 51 and 69), and about 40 of them (between 36 and 49) will go on to play a significant career in the NHL (at least 300 games played). Those numbers are likely lower than what most expected, and they don’t even take the quality of the player into consideration – a Hall of Fame player is worth the same as a fourth line grinder in this analysis.


NHL players per draft round


So from the total of 2,100 draft selections in my sample, 598 players played at least 100 games in the NHL. Next, I decided to see on which round those 598 players were drafted.