John Chayka's chance meeting with former NHL coach Scotty Bowman eight years ago gave him the motivation needed to take a leap of faith.
Terry Chayka, John's father, arranged the meeting with the Hockey Hall of Fame member coach in Tampa. Chayka, who was 19 at the time, shared his thoughts on analytics with Bowman and in return the nine-time Stanley Cup winning coach offered secrets to his success.
"Mr. Bowman was incessantly curious about the game and wanted to learn more," Chayka told NHL.com. "My sense of our discussion was as much as he knows about the game, he's very aware that there's a lot that is yet to be understood, and so my take away from that is that if he was looking to continually get better and looking for new and innovative ways, than why shouldn't we all be doing that.
"That's what stuck with me."
Not long after, Chayka co-founded and served as director of hockey operations at Stathletes Inc., a hockey analytics firm that tracks data through video analysis to provide objective insight into player and team performance tendencies.
Chayka, who turned 27 on June 9, said the biggest difference between analytics then and now is the amount of information so readily available.
Video: Arizona Coyotes GM John Chayka on the 2016 NHL Draft
"When I started it was more having a hypothesis and collecting information to prove or disapprove what you felt was true in the game," Chayka said. "Now I think its evolved where you have this big data push in technology so you can analyze and collect information. The data provides you with things you might not have known; it speaks to you so I think that's maybe the next step in the evolution as it becomes more predictive in nature, as opposed to descriptive.
"It is our duty as managers to go through and cover all our bases to understand as much as possible because we're making multi-million dollar decisions. That to me is the crux in analysis and research in general."
He joined the Arizona Coyotes as assistant general manager/analytics in 2015-16, and was named the eighth GM in team history on May 5. At 26, he became the youngest GM in major-league sports history.
Chayka considers himself a rather private individual and isn't active on Twitter. He has his own personal page on Facebook but "it's tight for only close friends."
"I don't read much into the media and their take on things because it just kind of clouds judgement," he said.
Does he feel analytics have changed the way NHL teams will consider future hires in prominent roles?
"I think there's a push toward trying to find a competitive edge, trying to find a different way of looking at things," Chayka said. "If that leads to a quantitative approach then it does and I know there's a push to hiring more scouts in European countries. It's all about finding a new way of looking at things."
Chayka said his one season working with former Coyotes GM Don Maloney was a great experience.
"Don is one of the most morally ethical, character people you'll ever come across," he said. "He has his principles and is one of the hardest-working individuals you'll ever come across."
Chayka is now preparing for a big offseason alongside president of hockey operations Gary Drummond and executive vice president of hockey operations/coach Dave Tippett. Among those prominent decisions are determining who to choose at the 2016 NHL Draft in Buffalo on June 24-25 and what to do with captain Shane Doan, 39, an impending unrestricted free agent on July 1.
"Shane and I have talked about different options and he is just mulling over exactly what is the best fit for him, contractually," Chayka said. "Shane wants to be here and we want Shane to be here. He's been tremendous throughout the whole process and I can't say enough good things about the guy and his dedication to this organization."
Video: Doan discusses new GM John Chayka, reflects on season
The Coyotes have two first-round picks and two second-round picks. They select No. 7 in the first round so unless a dramatic trade is in the works, Chayka has no shot at Scottsdale, Ariz., native Auston Matthews, the projected No. 1 pick.
"He's kind of a natural fit being from Scottsdale, but there are a lot of other good players," Chayka said. "There's going to be good players at No. 7 and No. 20 so we're comfortable taking our picks. If there's a deal out there that improves our team then I'm comfortable doing that too."
Arizona needs to find top-four defensive help through the draft, free agency or trade market.
"We'll have an emphasis on defense, but at the same time we're going to take the best player available," Chayka said. "It's hard enough to find good players without trying to find the good players in the right position."
Chayka will work with his scouting team, including director of amateur scouting Tim Bernhardt and assistant director of amateur scouting Jeff Twohey.
"You rely on those guys because they've seen players all year," Chayka said. "Traditional scouting is a huge part of our decision-making process. It provides more data and information and is very important. Typical scouting is not going anywhere and the amount of knowledge and understanding that they have on these draft-eligible players is special."
Chayka said he learned a lot at the NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo.
"You try and add an element of analysis to help the scouts shape the tougher decisions, and the NHL combine was about adding context and color and not about moving players up or down," Chayka said. "You're trying to find the right people to build your organization moving forward."
The emergence of rookie forwards Max Domi, Anthony Duclair and Jordan Martinook, and goalie Louie Domingue has everyone in the organization optimistic about the future. Chayka also likes what he sees from organizational prospects Dylan Strome (2015 NHL Draft, No. 3 pick), Christian Dvorak (2014 draft, No. 58), Ryan MacInnis (2014 draft, No. 43) and Christian Fischer (2015 draft, No. 32).
"They will all improve; it comes down to their summer and if the physicality matches up with their level of play," Chayka said.