The NHL Entry Draft is a collective meeting in which the franchises of the National Hockey League systematically select the rights to available amateur players who meet the eligibility requirements to play professional hockey in the NHL.
The first NHL Amateur Draft was held on June 5, 1963 at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, Quebec. Any amateur player that was 17 years of age and older and was not already sponsored by an NHL club was eligible to be drafted.
In 1969 the rules were changed so that any amateur player under the age of 20 was eligible to be drafted. 84 players (more than four times the average in each of the first six drafts) were selected that year.
In 1979, the name of the Draft was changed from "Amateur" to "Entry" to accommodate a rule change that allowed players who had previously played professionally to be drafted. This rule change was made to facilitate the absorption of players from the now defunct World Hockey Association.
Beginning in 1980 and continuing today, any player who is 18-20 years old is eligible to be drafted. In addition, any non-North American player over the age of 20 can be selected.
Also in 1980, the Entry Draft became a public event. Prior to this year the Entry Draft was conducted in Montreal hotels or League offices and was closed to the general public. The 1980 draft was held in the Montreal Forum and there were more than 2,500 fans in attendance.
Live television coverage of the Draft began in 1984 when the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation covered the event in both English and French for Canadian audiences. SportsChannel America began covering the event in the United States in 1989.
The C form was the standard document issued by the National Hockey League to acquire amateur players in the Original Six era. Prior to the Universal Draft of 1969, amateur drafts were for players who were not on a sponsorship list.
The form, which usually led to a professional contract, would be signed by an amateur prospect at age 18 and it was permissible to be renewed only once. The player would usually be a member of a junior team that was affiliated with a National Hockey League franchise.
There was a popular view at the time that parents signed very young children's hockey lives over to the teams. This comes from the fact that at the time, most Junior clubs were owned or subsidised by NHL teams, and usually subsidised minor hockey in their areas.
However, a prospect had to be 18 years of age or older to sign a C-Form. Players as young as 14 could be put on a 4-name future negotiation list (as was the case for Bobby Orr in 1962).
The NHL draft is often unpredictable in terms of what a draft pick will achieve as a professional. It is impossible to predict with absolute certainty how successful a young player will be in the NHL, and many factors weigh on a player's development. Determining a young player's potential is not an exact science: scouts and managers can misevaluate talent or young players can simply fail to reach their potential. Some players are heralded as the next Mario Lemieux and selected with an early pick only to end up a career minor leaguer. Such players are considered draft "busts".
Likewise, a prospect that had been shrugged off by scouts as not having an impact in the NHL ends up having a fruitful or outstanding career in the league. In this case, a player is considered to be a draft "steal".
There are no set criteria for labeling a player a bust or a steal, so the terminology is subjective by definition. Most of the time, players are termed busts if they are selected early in the draft and never make it as an NHL player, and players are considered steals if they are taken in the later rounds and become a top NHL pro. However, the terms can also be used more loosely: any player who fails to live up to expectations could be called a bust, and any player who outperforms those who were taken ahead of him could be called a steal.
In the 1974 entry draft, Buffalo Sabres General Manager Punch Imlach deliberately selected an imaginary Japanese center, Taro Tsujimoto, supposedly of the Tokyo Katanas of the Japanese Ice Hockey League, in the 11th round (183rd overall). Only after weeks had passed did the league discover that Tsujimoto did not in fact exist. Imlach later revealed that he had played the prank because of his frustration with the excessive tedium and length of that year's draft proceedings. Today, the league officially records the 183rd selection of the 1974 entry draft as an "invalid claim".
Below is a chart showing where players have been drafted from by year. The leagues represented are the Ontario Hockey League, Western Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, United States Colleges, United States High Schools, International players. Those player listed under Other do not fit any of the other listed categories. International players who were playing for teams in North American leagues are listed in the chart as being drafted from their respective league rather than being listed as international. 
|Total Players Drafted (1969-2006):||8,727|
|National Hockey League (2007-08)|
|Eastern Conference||Western Conference|
|New Jersey Devils||Boston Bruins||Atlanta Thrashers||Chicago Blackhawks||Calgary Flames||Anaheim Ducks|
|New York Islanders||Buffalo Sabres||Carolina Hurricanes||Columbus Blue Jackets||Colorado Avalanche||Dallas Stars|
|New York Rangers||Montreal Canadiens||Florida Panthers||Detroit Red Wings||Edmonton Oilers||Los Angeles Kings|
|Philadelphia Flyers||Ottawa Senators||Tampa Bay Lightning||Nashville Predators||Minnesota Wild||Phoenix Coyotes|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||Toronto Maple Leafs||Washington Capitals||St. Louis Blues||Vancouver Canucks||San Jose Sharks|
|Seasons (structure) · Stanley Cup (Playoffs–Finals–Champions) · Presidents' Trophy · All-Star Game · Draft · Players (Association) · All-Star Teams · Awards|
|History · Timeline · Defunct teams · NHA · Original Six · 1967 Expansion · WHA · Streaks · Droughts · Hall of Fame (members) · Rivalries · Arenas · Rules · Violence|