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NHL & WHA Draft History

This is a list of various drafts that have occurred in both the National Hockey League and the World Hockey Association. They are divided up into three categories:


The NHL Amateur Draft was instituted in 1963 in order to break the existing NHL teams' monopoly on junior players, which they had gained by the NHL Sponsorship System. Prior to the Amateur draft players were claimed by NHL teams based on the junior teams they played for. If an NHL team sponsored a junior team and a player was on that team, their rights belonged to the NHL team and the player could not play for any NHL team except the sponsor.

However, the first few years of the NHL draft were still affected by the sponsorship system since sponsored players were not eligible to be drafted. It was not until the 1969 draft that all remnant effects of the sponsorship system were eliminated.

Amateur drafts typically involve players who have reached a minimum age. Although most players in the draft are amateur players at this age, rules allow for older professional players in other leagues to be selected.

NHL Amateur Drafts
WHA Amateur Drafts


Adam Oates was not drafted in a NHL amateur draft. He went on to play college hockey at RPI, and after the team won the NCAA Championship in 1985, Oates was a hot commodity as a free agent player and was able to command a salary much higher than most NHL rookies. This situation prompted the NHL to create a secondary draft, reserved for undrafted college players who were at least 21 years old. This allowed the NHL to catch any good talent that they had missed and thus keep a damper on rookie salaries.

The NHL Supplemental Draft was discontinued as a result of the 1995 NHL/NHLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement.

NHL Supplemental Drafts

Expansion, etc.

From time to time, when the NHL (or WHA) expanded, they had a need to stock the new team with players. An expansion draft was held, and existing teams would submit a list of "protected" players - players which could not be selected in the draft. The expansion teams could then select any player not on those lists. The rules for each expansion draft varied, for example, the 1991 expansion draft allowed the existing Minnesota North Stars to participate because of a complex situation best explained elsewhere.

Another type of draft, common before the NHL Amateur Draft came into existence, was the Intraleague draft. In this draft, NHL teams could select players from each other. This type of draft also involved lists of protected players, and the team from which the player was taken would often receive cash compensation. Often the teams that finished out of the playoffs were allowed to protect more players than those who made the playoffs. These drafts were held in an era of NHL secrecy, and so because of this complete information rarely trickled out about them.

Another type of Intraleague draft involved NHL teams selecting players from lower independent professional leagues such as the American Hockey League or the Western Hockey League.

NHL Expansion Drafts
WHA Expansion Drafts
NHL Intraleague Drafts