NHL Roster Size

NHL hockey teams can only carry a limited number of players on their roster at any given time. There is also a different limit to the number of players they can have within their organization. Now for the question of how many players are allowed to be included in their roster, an NHL team can have not more than 23 players on the roster for the majority of the regular season. After the NHL trade deadline and during the playoffs, the roster spots are expanded, and there are also emergency provisions for injuries. NHL hockey clubs must submit their “Opening Day Playing Roster” to the league prior to the start of the season, which must consist of no more than 23 players. 

A NHL team is allowed to have a maximum of 90 players on its reserve list. These can be either players on a standard player contract, or unsigned draft picks. Each team is permitted to sign up 50 players in a given season, including players on the active roster, on loan, and injured reserve lists.

How Many Players Are On The Active NHL Roster

The NHL team can carry only a specified number of players at any point during the season. The teams are not allowed to have unlimited players on their team or within the association. For the 2021 NHL season, the rosters were quite different. The teams were allowed to have a maximum of twenty-three players. However, the teams could have a Taxi Squad which is like a minor league team. Like every NHL season, the teams must have at least twenty players or a maximum of twenty-three. The roster spots expand after the deadline for trade and during playoffs. Emergency provisions are also allowed for injuries. Here is the list of player numbers and categories that you need to know about the NHL roster rules.

  • Twenty players: a maximum of twenty players can dress for every game in the league. 
  • Twenty-three players: each team can have a maximum of 23 players on the roster for the league season. 
  • Fifty players: Under the contract of the entire organization, a team can have up to fifty professional players. 
  • Ninety players: each team can reserve up to ninety players for the league
    • Fifty Professional Players
    • Signed Junior Players
    • Unsigned draft choices
    • Defected players (unsigned draft choices playing in Europe)

Each NHL hockey team can carry twenty-three players on their roster list from the beginning of the season until the deadline of March. During this period, each team must have at least twenty Players on their respective NHL club. After that, each team can have unlimited players who are signed to the team fifty player contract openings.

Each team has a limited amount of money to spend on their entire list of players, this is called the salary cap. The average budget was around seventy-nine million dollars for the NHL season of 2018-2019. It might sound a lot for a team of twenty-three players but the demanding schedule of professional hockey does pay well! In case of injury to any of the current active roster of players, the teams will add another player on the roster to replace him.

Starting from after the trade deadline up to the end of the season, there is no limit added to the NHL Roster Size. A team can, however, add four players from their American Hockey League team. If the current list of players faces injuries, then the team is allowed to call-up emergency recalls. However, most teams do not want to add new players all the time mostly due to the salary capital issue. The teams and players are typically playing each game with a roster of 22 to 23 players.

Among twenty to twenty-three Players on NHL Team, only twenty players can dress for a game. The division is done on the basis of six defensemen, twelve forwards and two goalies. Sometimes, the coach decides to send eleven forwards and seven for defense. In the case of goalies, usually one of them plays the entire game, and the other one serves as a backup. The backup goalie enters the game only if the first one gets an injury or if the coach wants to replace him if the starting goalie is not playing well.

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How Many Players Are On The Injured List

An NHL teams management can make a choice on whether or not to put an injured player on the injured reserve, depending on the severity of the injury and how much time the player will miss. The injured reserve is a status for a players that are unable to play due to a physical injury. However, if a player is put once on the injured reserve, they have to be there for at least seven days. Once the player is forwarded towards the injured reserve, he cannot participate in any games for the team. The only advantage of injured reserve this season is that the management can call up a minor league player to replace him on the NHL team. Moreover, the injured player does not count on the salary cap for the league anymore.

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Here is the list of procedures that the club needs to follow before placing a player on the injured reserve list.

  1. A club can only place a player on the injured reserve list if he is physically ill, injured, or incapable of performing his responsibilities as a player in the team after passing the basic physic test for the season.
  2. Any injury of the player that makes him unable to perform physically for at least seven days. However, after that, the player can be placed on the injured reserve list of the team. Once the player is placed, the management can replace the player with another on the NHL roaster size. The injury suffered needs to be checked by the club’s medical staff as per the standards of the medical department of the club.
  3. Once a player is placed on the injured reserve list, he is unable to compete in the games for at least seven days.
  4. The player on the list can attend club meetings, have meals, travel, and practice with the remaining team.

Does the NHL Roster Size Change for Playoffs

There is no such roster limit for the playoffs, but the standard rules apply in only having 20 players dress for any game. However, the NHL teams must still have at least fifty contracts within the organization. The rights of the players will belong to the team until free-agency and signing periods open up, typically in July during a normal season.

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How Many Healthy Scratches Do NHL Teams Have

Healthy scratches are the players who cannot dress for a specific game, and the players that are scratched can change every day. You can count the number of healthy scratches by subtracting the number of players playing from the ones present in the active 23 man roster list. Therefore, the number is usually 2 or 3 for every game. A healthy scratched player will sit and observe the rest of the teammates playing, or rehab an injury if required. Only on rare occasions, a player gets to play only twenty to thirty games out of the eighty-two games the teams play for the entire season.


NHL is one of the best spectator sports in the world, if not the best and die-hard hockey fans cannot get enough. The NHL season for 2021-2022 had its opening night on October 12th, and the action is just starting to heat up! The players will be tested for COVID before each game, and the league is still looking for various protective measures for the players to stay safe during the entire season.

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