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From the draft to the NHL: A round-by-round look at the league's skaters and goalies

How do players get to the NHL? It's no surprise most come from the first round of the draft, but a surprising amount of the league has taken a more unconventional route.

Last week, we took a look at the NHL’s demographic breakdown as the regular season got underway, detailing which countries were providing the league with players, and how many players were coming from each country.

We’re taking a similar approach this time around, except we’re looking at the NHL’s 2018-19 player population through the lens of the entry draft. Specifically, how many players this season – skaters and goalies – have come from each round of the draft, and highlighting a few of the more notable tidbits. There’s also a section on undrafted players at the bottom.

(Note: To qualify, players needed to have appeared in at least one game this season as of Oct. 19.)

Number of skaters: 261
Number of goalies: 11
As you’d expect, the first round of the draft sends more players to the NHL than any other round, as well as (many) more star-caliber players than any other round. It just makes sense. A total of 644 skaters had played at least one NHL game this season through Oct. 19, with the first round providing 40.5 percent of the workforce (261 out of 644). Winnipeg leads the league with 13 first-round picks in its lineup, while Vegas only has two. When it comes to goalies, seven of the 11 first-round netminders in the NHL are their team’s starting netminder. It’s worth noting that NHL teams rarely draft goalies in the first round, with No. 1 overall pick Marc-Andre Fleury in 2003 being the exception that proves the rule.

Number of skaters: 107
Number of goalies: 8
The drop-off is evident, and again, it’s probably what you’d expect. Players who were picked in Round 2 of the draft make up 16.6 percent of NHL skaters (107 out of 644). The star power has dimmed compared to the first round, too, but the second round has still yielded selections such as P.K. Subban (43rd overall in 2007), Patrice Bergeron (45th overall in 2003) and Nikita Kucherov (58th overall in 2011), among others. As for the goalies, five of the eight NHL stoppers who were picked in the second round are the No. 1 on their team. This includes John Gibson in Anaheim and Corey Crawford in Chicago.

Number of skaters: 54
Number of goalies: 9
The deeper you go in the draft, the fewer players make it to the NHL. Again, it’s a pretty logical conclusion. Players drafted in the third round account for 8.4 percent of the league’s skaters (54 out of 644). The star power also takes a hit, although Kris Letang (62nd overall in 2005), Brad Marchand (71st overall in 2006), Pittsburgh playoff hero Jake Guentzel (77th overall in 2013) and Brayden Point (79th overall in 2014) are among the Round 3 standouts. For goalies, the third round trumps the second round in terms of quantity (9-8) and quality (six of the nine third-round goalies are their team’s starter, compared to five second-round starters).

Number of skaters: 44
Number of goalies: 5
Do the math, and 6.8 percent of the NHL’s skaters were drafted in the fourth round (44 out of 644). That’s not too far behind Round 3’s output, but the diamonds in the rough are getting harder to find. There’s Johnny Gaudreau, Viktor Arvidsson and Josh Anderson up front, and more than a few decent defensemen (Mattias Ekholm, T.J. Brodie, Keith Yandle, Jaccob Slavin, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Sami Vatanen), but this group won’t be mistaken for a first-round pedigree. Braden Holtby is the only one of the five fourth-round goalies who stands up as his team’s starter.

Number of skaters: 42
Number of goalies: 6
The fifth round almost keeps pace with the fourth, providing the NHL with 6.5 percent of its skaters (42 out of 644). Dallas, especially, has been prescient in Round 5, finding Jamie Benn 129th overall in 2007 and John Klingberg 131st overall in 2010. For the rest of the league, though, the fifth round has been a source for depth players, not high-enders. Among goalies, fifth-round picks Connor Hellebuyck and Mike Smith are holding down starting jobs.

Number of skaters: 36
Number of goalies: 4
The sixth round represents 5.6 percent of the NHL’s skaters (36 out of 644). No big stars, but some solid second-stringers in the likes of Mark Stone, Cam Atkinson, Anders Lee and Carl Hagelin up front, as well as defensemen Josh Manson, Jared Spurgeon and Dylan DeMelo. All four of the sixth-round goalies are backups.

Number of skaters: 17
Number of goalies: 3
The NHL draft went from nine rounds down to seven rounds in 2005. So if you’re a seventh-round pick these days, somebody took a flyer on you and hoped you’d pan out. For 17 players, which translates to 2.6 percent of the league’s 644 skaters, the dream came true. And there’s some notable names, too, like San Jose captain Joe Pavelski (205th overall in 2003) and Tampa Bay’s two-way Ondrej Palat (207th overall in 2011). Not to mention, the Rangers snagged franchise goalie Henrik Lundqvist with the 205th overall pick in the 2000 draft.

Number of skaters: 1
Number of goalies: 1
The Chicago Blackhawks found Dustin Byfuglien with the 245th selection in the 2003 draft, while the Nashville Predators nabbed Pekka Rinne 258th overall in 2004.

Number of skaters: 0
Number of goalies: 2
The two late-grabbed goalies are Boston’s Jaroslav Halak (271st overall by Montreal in 2003) and Philadephia’s Brian Elliott (291st overall by Ottawa in 2003).

Number of skaters: 82
Number of goalies: 13
After the first round (40.5 percent) and second round (16.6 percent), undrafted players account for the third-biggest segment of the NHL’s population at 12.7 percent (82 out of 644). Columbus’ Artemi Panarin likely takes the crown as the league’s most talented undrafted player, while Tampa Bay unearthed both Tyler Johnson and Yanni Gourde. Defensemen Mark Giordano, Chris Tanev, Andy Greene and Nikita Zaitsev never heard their name called at the draft, but made it to the NHL anyway. It’s also interesting when you consider that there’s 13 undrafted goalies in the NHL, which is more than the first round (11) – or any other round – has provided. Six of the 13 undrafted goalies are the starter for their team, most notably two-time Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky in Columbus.


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