The NHL operates a seven-round off-season draft. Like the NBA, the NHL uses a lottery system to determine which team gets the top pick, with the worst five teams eligible. Any North American player age 18-20, and any overseas player over 18, is eligible to be selected. Players are generally chosen from junior hockey teams, high schools, the NCAA and overseas clubs. The NHL rotates the draft's location among cities with teams in the league. Like baseball, players drafted in the entry draft usually have to wait a few years in development, either in junior hockey or the minor leagues, before cracking an NHL roster; usually, only one or two draft picks, generally those that are widely predicted to be blue-chip superstars, jump directly from the draft to the NHL (e.g. Sidney Crosby).

The junior leagues that make up the Canadian Hockey League also hold drafts of teenage players in their territories.

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