GLENDALE – The Coyotes expanded the team’s Hockey Operations department earlier this week by hiring John Chayka as Assistant General Manager/Analytics.
It’s a new position and Chayka, 25, is eager to get started.
"To be in the National Hockey League in a management role is a huge honor," Chayka told ArizonaCoyotes.com. "Arizona was the team that felt right to me. The Coyotes have a strong ownership group and a lot of well-established people throughout the management team and the coaching staff. Obviously, (General Manager) Don Maloney and (Assistant General Manager) Darcy Regier have a ton of experience that I can learn from, and Dave Tippett and his staff are one of the best coaching staffs in the League that I’ve come across. It’s just a really compelling organization right now and there are a lot of good things going on with the team and I want to be part of it."
Chayka, a former left wing once drafted by the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League, is known within the hockey community for co-founding and operating Stathletes Inc – a well-respected Canadian consulting firm that tracks data and offers analytics-based insight into hockey players. While there, Chayka said his job was to leverage information to help players recognize their strengths and weaknesses so they could tailor their training to improve. At first, he and the firm analyzed individual junior players but soon NHL teams were asking them to analyze their players and their teams as a whole to better understand which players were creating value on the ice and which players were destroying value.
"There is so much parity in the NHL," said Chayka, who gave up playing hockey because of a back injury. "The difference between winning and losing across the League is so slim that teams are really just looking for two or three percent improvements across the board. Analytics is one of the pieces that can fit in there and give teams that competitive advantage. That’s really where it has started to gain some traction the past few years; it’s an area where there is room to grow."
Chayka’s first day on the job was Monday. He spent it with Maloney, Regier and members of the amateur scouting staff at the NHL Draft Combine in Buffalo.
Chayka said he always has been a student of the game, and although he’s only 25 years old he feels he’s crammed about 15 years of experience into five.
"When I was growing up I would always observe the game very intently and I’d always ask a lot of questions and talk to my coach or GM and pick their brain," Chayka said. "I would have loved to become an NHL player but being in management or coaching was always at the top of my list, too."
Chayka’s role with the team will span into all areas of hockey operations including NHL, minor league and amateur player evaluation as well as player development and coaching support.
"The whole idea is to be creative and try to think out of the box and try to do different things," Chayka said regarding his approach to analytics. "That’s one thing that came across loud and clear in my discussions with everyone here. Because we’re kind of a smaller-market team or smaller-budget team, if we do what everybody else does our chances of winning are probably very slim. So, we have to do things differently to gain an advantage."