When it comes to the NHL trade deadline, draft picks are some of the most useful pieces of currency. From the Jan. 30 trade of Bo Horvat to the Islanders through the March 3 trade deadline, a total of 33 picks from the 2023 draft changed hands (including those with conditions attached).
Interestingly, over that same period, teams swapped 23 picks from the 2024 draft, 14 picks from the 2025 draft and even five from the 2026 draft.
Today, we’ll look specifically at the landscape for the 2023 draft, since it’s in our immediate future with a class of players regarded as special in terms of depth of talent. Connor Bedard is the prize at the top, but there’s a real sense you can still nab an impact prospect in the back half of the first round as well — and maybe even into the second.
Again in that window of trade from Jan. 30 to March 3, a total of 10 first-round picks from the 2023 draft were used in trade, some of them being moved a few times (Boston’s and the New York Islanders’ picks were moved in two separate deals). What we’re left with are eight teams that hold more than one first-rounder in the upcoming draft and one team — the St. Louis Blues — holds three of them.
Those teams might choose to pick players with all those selections, or they could have control with how the first round plays out if they look to flip them again for other players. And, on that, we’re really interested in what the Blues do with their three.
Here is a look at which teams hold the most total picks in the 2023 draft (first-rounders in parentheses). With how many picks have conditions attached to them, though, keep in mind that the finally tally could still change by the end of the regular season.
Some notes on this breakdown:
• Each team, of course, starts with seven draft picks. As of the morning of Thursday, March 9, four teams out of the playoffs have fewer 2023 draft picks than they started with: Calgary, Florida, Ottawa and Washington.
• Of those four teams, two of them don’t have a first-round pick: Ottawa and Florida.
• Although Ottawa spent its draft capital on a playoff push for now but also with an eye on the future of their young and emerging core (their top-five protected first-rounder went to Arizona in the Jakob Chychrun trade), Florida finds itself here because of last year’s push. Now, three points out of the playoffs but 10th in the East by points percentage, the Panthers are without any first-round picks for the next three years.
• The Panthers traded those firsts for Claude Giroux, Ben Chiarot and Sam Reinhart. Only Reinhart remains on the team. The Habs have Florida’s 2023 first-round pick, unprotected. Ottawa’s moves negatively impacted their draft outlook in 2023.
• Finally on the Sens, while they do hold five draft picks in 2023, their earliest is in Round 4.
• While the Predators hold the most picks overall, only four of them are in the first two rounds. They have six in Round 3 and 4 combined.
• The Canucks are right in the middle of the league and have as many draft picks now as they started with, but four of their seven picks will be made in Round 4 or later.
• Five teams will pick at least four times within the first two rounds: Chicago (6), Detroit (5), Seattle (4), Nashville (4) and Anaheim (4). The Kraken are the only playoff team in this group and are still building out an organization that was just formed last year.
• Although Chicago has the most selections in the first two rounds, the Red Wings might get the best bang for the buck. While two of Chicago’s second-rounders come from Cup contenders Tampa Bay and New York Rangers, Detroit’s three second-rounders are their own, St. Louis’ and Vancouver’s. That means, at the moment, Detroit has five of the first 41 picks.
• Arizona took heat for how they’re “manipulating” the cap by taking on a bunch of players who will never play for them just to reach the salary floor next season. But that tactic is perfectly within the rules and has allowed the Coyotes to accumulate a bonkers amount of picks. Over the next three drafts, Arizona has 22 picks total within the first three rounds — and 13 within the first two rounds of the next three drafts.
• The closest comparison to the Coyotes in this regard are the pick-hoarding Chicago Blackhawks, who have 19 Round 1-3 picks in the next three drafts, and 14 within the first two rounds. They are also the only team with two first-round picks in each of the next three drafts.
Our scout Jason Bukala had some thoughts on the Coyotes’ pick situation after the deadline and shares what could be ahead:
• The NHL has a 50-contract limit per organization.
• The Coyotes have been stockpiling draft picks. In the next three drafts, the team has (22) picks in the first three rounds and 37 total picks.
• They have selected 19 players in the past two drafts.
• Players selected out of major junior (aka, the Canadian Hockey League) have a two-year window to earn a contract with the team that selected them in the draft. If the player goes unsigned by the team, he re-enters the draft.
• NHL teams have a four-year development window for prospects they draft from Europe.
• Teams have four years to decide on college players who were selected before they entered their freshman season.
• Between Thursday and the end of the 2025 draft cycle, the Coyotes will have 58 prospects in their system at various levels.
Amateur and pro scouting staffs from all NHL clubs monitor the development of previously selected prospects across the league. Another layer of reporting comes from player development. The bottom line is, teams report on rival club prospects for trade-related purposes.
The flip side of having too many picks
The Coyotes will, eventually, run out of room for their prospects. Without dissecting every one of their draft picks, it’s safe to assume the team will be moving some of their prospects to other clubs in the future – and inheriting potentially more draft capital in return. They, of course, could flip some of their assets for NHL roster players in the future too, but the organization does not have a recent history of making that kind of transaction.