NCAA-to-pro pipeline: Men’s hockey

June 28, 2024
A deep dive into the relationship between the NCAA and NHL
NCAA-to-pro pipeline: Men’s hockey
Source: Reuters/X

The GIST: The NCAA-to-NHL pipeline is less robust than the basketball or softball pro pathway, but former NCAA stars still comprise a sizable chunk of the league’s roster spots, and the college game’s impact on the NHL is most certainly on the rise.

The process: The NHL employs a traditional draft structure — the league’s 32 teams make one pick in each of the seven rounds — but a very nontraditional pipeline: Draftees don’t necessarily ink pro contracts immediately. They can instead maintain their NCAA eligibility and continue to develop in college.

  • Of last year’s 224 picks, only nine were NCAAers…but 60 more were high schoolers committed to a college program. Those 69 athletes represent 7.1% of last year’s current and future NCAA pool.
  • That said, being drafted doesn’t guarantee an NHL roster spot: Many draftees start in the minors, and only about half eventually make the Big Time.
  • With the bulk of NHLers hailing from outside the U.S. (70.7%), it’s no shock that only about one-third of the league’s 877 active players developed in the college system — but half of the NHL’s general managers and 40% of its HCs claim NCAA roots.

This year’s draft class: Players from Canada’s junior leagues unsurprisingly dominate ESPN’s first-round mock draft but, impressively, it’s two NCAAers who are projected to be selected first.

  • Boston University forward Macklin Celebrini is a shoo-in for the No. 1 overall pick, and many expect Michigan State defenseman Artyom Levshunov to go second. Just behind them is Denver defenseman Zeev Buium, who could be chosen as high as the No. 6 spot.