How Many Players are in The NHL

How Many Players are in The NHL?

The NHL is one of the most significant sports leagues in the world and the professional ice hockey league. Playing in the NHL is one of the greatest honors for any ice hockey player, especially those who want to pursue playing ice hockey as a career. The NHL can help you reach new heights.

Who gets the chance to play with the NHL, and how many players does the NHL have? Because not everyone is lucky enough, not everyone gets the chance.

There are 31 teams registered under the NHL, and all the teams can include 20 – 23 players on their respective rosters. Hence, the NHL can contain 620 to 713 players at a specific moment.

In the 2018-19 season, 903 players had contracts with the NHL.

Total Number of Players who played in the NHL

As mentioned above, 903 players played with the NHL in the 2018-19 season. These included:

  • 93 goalies
  • 282 defensemen
  • 528 forwards

But we have also mentioned that the NHL teams have the restriction to keep the number of players between 20 – 23, and 31 NHL teams make 620 to 713 players without including the injured reserve.

The teams do not have this roster size restriction only one month before the season begins, after the trade deadline at the end of February or the start of March. So, how come 903 players? Three significant elements define the NHL roster size of a team at any particular moment:

1. Minimum Roster Size

Any team’s least number of players is 20, with 18 skaters and two goalies.

2. Maximum Roster Size

The maximum number of players allowed is 23. These three remaining players are the team management’s choice to pick any combination.

3. Injured Reserve

In case a player gets injured and cannot play, then the management can put him on the injured reserve, which is not part of the roster.

Common Scenarios on How Many Players a Team has at Any One Time?

The NHL teams have this choice to keep 20 to 23 players on their roster, so what do the teams do? Usually, the roster size of most teams is 22-23 players. How do the teams select their roster size? Let us look at the different scenarios.

  • There are 22 players in the team when they decide to keep one healthy scratch for the defenseman and forward each. So, they select 13 forwards, seven defensemen and two goaltenders. Twelve forwards and six defensemen play the game.
  • Sometimes, the teams also carry exactly twenty players on their rosters though it is pretty unusual. The teams do this because of the salary cap implications.
  • And lastly, teams carry 22-23 players on their rosters and some on the injured reserve. Since hockey is a challenging physical game, teams usually have one or two players on their injured reserve lists. These players stay and practice with the team but do not play the official matches. Once a player is okay, and back on the active roster, teams must have space for them. If the roster has increased its limit, the teams must trade the players or send them to minors.

NHL Trade Deadline and the Increase in Roster Size and Number of Players

The NHL tradeline ends at the start of March. When the deadline expires, the teams are free to keep more than 23 players.

But there are conditions. Teams can have four additional call-ups, but they are free to sign up players from other teams. And a team cannot have more than fifty contracts throughout the season. Even when the roster limit is lifted, the teams typically do not take extra players for two essential reasons.

First, teams do not want extra players in the team, especially those not playing. The team players have established schedules and routines and are used to that. So, it becomes difficult to handle more players.

Secondly, there are always salary cap implications that the management has to consider. Teams cannot quickly bring up players from the minors. So, they avoid the extra players.

Generally, four types of players can join the team after the roster size limit is lifted:

  • Players having current NHL contracts
  • Players from the minor leagues
  • Players on Professional Tryout contracts
  • Draft Picks

Teams can work with these players and finalize players for the next season. The roster limit of 23 players is back in September when the new season begins. By this time, teams must have selected their final roster. Teams are also allowed to contract with fifty players, which helps them in unusual circumstances.

The following table shows the number of players teams can have:

Roster LimitsCount Per Team Total (31 Teams)
Game Roster20620
Active Roster23713
Standard Player Contract (50-Max)501550
Reserve List (90-Max)902790

Stanley Cup Playoffs: The Black Aces

When the playoffs begin, more players can join the team. The salary cap implications are no longer there because the playoff salaries are not part of the salary cap, so players from the minor leagues who have played in the playoffs can become part of the team.

These players who now join the team to play in the playoffs are known as the black aces. The black aces can play with the team if required, but they practice separately and not with the team since the coaches do not want changes in the team techniques and strategies they have been following throughout the season.

These players usually come from the minor leagues and have played the seasons there. So, that is how we know the number of players in the NHL teams. If you want to play in the NHL, you must be part of one of these categories. Happy Striving!

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