History of the National Hockey League/1967–1992/Entry draft

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The new teams were stocked by the NHL's first expansion draft, as each team selected 20 players from the existing franchises. There was much debate over how many players each existing team could protect: the strongest clubs wished to protect more players, while the weaker clubs hoped that protecting fewer players would help improve the balance of competition. Montreal Canadiens manager Sam Pollock's suggestion to allow each team to protect eleven players to start, then add an additional player to their protected list for each player selected in the draft, was ultimately agreed to as a compromise solution. In addition, an "intra-league draft" was held following the 1968 and 1969 seasons to help accelerate the improvement of the expansion teams. Each team protected two goaltenders and fourteen skaters, leaving their remaining players open to be selected by any other team.

Some teams created instant farm systems by buying existing minor league franchises. The Kings bought the Springfield Indians of the American Hockey League the night before the expansion draft, leading the Flyers to purchase the Quebec Aces. Expansion also changed how the amateur draft was handled. The old system, in which franchises sponsored junior teams and players, was abandoned by 1969 when all junior-aged players were made eligible for the entry draft.

During the late 1960s, the concept of sponsoring junior players and teams had been dismantled, meaning that for the 1969 NHL Amateur Draft, every player aged 20 or above was eligible to be selected. The Montreal Canadiens, however, exercised a special "cultural option" that allowed them to select two players of French-Canadian heritage, before any other players were selected. These players counted as Montreal's first two choices. After the Canadiens took Rejean Houle and Marc Tardif, the rest of the league voted to end the rule in 1970, just before future star Gilbert Perreault was selected first in the 1970 expansion draft by the Buffalo Sabres.

In 1974, Sabres general manager Punch Imlach decided to play a joke on the league during the draft. He selected Taro Tsujimoto of the "Tokyo Katanas" with his 11th round pick. Other teams were shocked that the Sabres had scouted for players in Japan, and the league made the pick official. Weeks later, Imlach admitted that he made the player up, choosing the name out of a phone book.

The league reformatted the Amateur Draft into the NHL Entry Draft in 1979 and simultaneously lowered the draft age to 19. It was first opened to the public in 1980, when 2,500 fans attended the draft in the Montreal Forum. The public draft has grown such that it is now held annually in NHL arenas and televised internationally.