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Men's ice hockey: Probability of competing beyond high school

When we survey NCAA student-athletes about their expectations of moving on to professional athletics careers, the results indicate surprising confidence in that possibility. The reality is that very few go pro.

Estimated probability of competing in men's college ice hockey

High School Participants NCAA Participants Overall % HS to NCAA % HS to NCAA Division I % HS to NCAA Division II % HS to NCAA Division III
35,283 4,323 12.3% 4.8% 0.6% 6.8%

Sources: High school figures come from the 2018-19 High School Athletics Participation Survey conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations.  College numbers are from the NCAA’s 2018-19 Sports Sponsorship and Participation Rates Report. These college numbers account for participation in college athletics at NCAA-member schools only.

Estimated probability of competing in men's professional ice hockey

NCAA Participants Approximate # Draft Eligible # Draft Picks # NCAA Drafted % NCAA to Major Pro % NCAA to Total Pro
4,323 961 217 71 7.4% --
  • NHL draft data from 2019 (source: hockeydb.com).  There were 217 draft picks in that year.  Only 4 players from NCAA rosters were selected in that draft (all from Division I teams).  However, this is not indicative of the likelihood of going from a college team to a professional team due to the nature of the NHL draft, where players are typically selected prior to college enrollment. 
  • In examining the subsequent hockey pathways of 2019 draftees (hockeydb.com), Nate Ewell at College Hockey, Inc. reported that 71 of the 217  were current student-athletes or committed recruits at NCAA colleges. These numbers, although not fully comparable to those used in the other sports examined, were used to calculate an approximate NCAA to Major Pro percentage (calculated as 71 / 961).  Note that only a small subset of players drafted ever plays in an NHL game (e.g. of the 217 2019 draftees, only 5 had played in the NHL during the 2019-20 season as of March 12, 2020).  Undrafted college players may go on to sign contracts with NHL teams after completing college (those numbers are not part of the current NCAA to Major Pro calculation). 
  • In 2019, 33% of players on active NHL rosters played college hockey (all Division I), up from about 20% in the year 2000 (source: Nate Ewell at collegehockeyinc.com).  69% of former college players in the NHL played at least three college seasons, and 33% played all four.

Last Updated: April 20, 2020