Unprotected Draft Pick

Unprotected Draft Pick: All You Need to Know

Unprotected draft pick, also known as an exposed draft pick, happens when a team fails to protect a player from being drafted by an opposing team during the expansion draft. In the National Hockey League (NHL), NBA, and NFL, an expansion draft is a process wherein a new team is given the opportunity to select players from the existing teams to fill its roster. Let’s take a closer look at unprotected draft picks, including what they are, how they work, and how they affect teams and players.

What is an Unprotected Draft Pick?

An unprotected draft pick is a player who has not been protected by their current team during an expansion draft. In the NHL, for example, each team can protect a certain number of players to keep them from being drafted by an expansion team. However, those players who are not protected are considered unprotected draft picks and are eligible to be picked up by the new team. Typically, an expansion team selects one player from each team in the draft, except for the Vegas Golden Knights expansion draft of 2017. They selected one player from every team in the league except for the Golden Knights themselves.

How Do Unprotected Draft Picks Work?

The rules for unprotected draft picks may vary, depending on the league in question. In the NHL, each team can protect either seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie or eight skaters (forwards, defensemen, or a goalie), and one goalie. The player that the new team chooses from the unprotected list is usually dictated by the needs of the expansion team, and in some cases, the desire to build a competitive team right away.

When an expansion team makes its picks, the chosen players are drafted from the existing teams’ rosters, and that leaves a spot open for the newly established team. The unprotected draft can have the potential to inspire other teams to make trades with the expansion team to protect their players. This option can be expensive, but it protects some top talent and is something to consider depending on the team’s needs.

What Happens to the Unprotected Players and Teams?

Unprotected players may face a range of outcomes, depending on their skill level and the makeup of the expansion team. If an unprotected player is of high caliber, they may be picked up by the new team and given a place as one of their main players. Conversely, a player of lower caliber may struggle to keep their spot or may be relegated to the team’s inactive list.

For their part, the teams that lose unprotected players may have to rebuild their roster, depending on how integral the player was to their lineup. However, losing a player may also present opportunities for the team to strengthen other aspects of the roster, such as by making trades, acquisitions, or engaging in the upcoming draft.

Teams are also permitted to make moves to protect their players. This often means individual trades with the expansion team to have a player that they would have chosen left alone. Protecting players, however, can be costly, so it must be carefully considered among team departments with owners, coaches, and other higher-ups weighing in.

Final Thoughts

If you’re trying to follow along with an expansion draft, now you can understand the unprotected draft picks better, what it means, and how it works. Teams are allowed to protect players they do not want to have on the unprotected list, but doing so can be expensive. The expansion draft can be a way for new teams to quickly build a competitive team or for existing teams to trade with an expansion team to keep specific players. Despite the risks and rewards, the NHL draft has always been a fascinating spectacle for die-hard hockey fans, and it’s definitely an event that should not be missed.