Alexandra Mandrycky is eager to help build an NHL team from scratch.
Mandrycky was recently hired by NHL Seattle as the expansion team's director of hockey administration. Her analytics work will play a major role in shaping everything from the opening night roster for the 2021-22 season to who'll be the first general manager.
"That's what makes it so exciting, to have the opportunity not just to be the number cruncher but also to help shape the organization from top to bottom," said the 28-year-old, whose official start date is July 1. "Being part of that process is very attractive."
Until a general manager is hired, Mandrycky said, she will assist NHL Seattle's hockey operations, be a point of contact for the team, help president and CEO Tod Leiweke with any tasks and have a hand in the GM decision.
Mandrycky said she'll be examining the drafting and trade histories of potential candidates along with organizational philosophy but declined to discuss which specific analytics she will apply to the search.
"I would say it's too early at this point to talk about a particular strategy, and about the type of players that NHL Seattle ultimately is going to acquire," she said.
But there is no question analytics will play a big part of any move Seattle makes.
"We see analytics as a key part of our success," Leiweke said. "We are very fortunate to have Alex join us and that her family journey took her to Seattle. She enjoys a great reputation and will be integral to what we're building."
It's also a look into the type of front office Seattle is putting together.
NHL Seattle officials say they are putting a premium on diversity and inclusion in hiring people. For example, six of 11 vice presidents who have been hired are women, and two of the 11 VPs are people of color.
Mandrycky previously worked for the Minnesota Wild, where she was hockey operations analyst for the past four seasons, working with lead hockey researcher Andrew C. Thomas.
The Wild hired both from war-on-ice.com, a website they cofounded that featured traditional and modern hockey statistical summaries, graphics, analysis, contracts and transactions. They met when Thomas, then a visiting professor of statistics at Carnegie Mellon University, hired Mandrycky, an Atlanta native who had recently graduated with a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering from Georgia Tech in 2013, as a systems and operations consultant for the site.
The chance to go to Seattle was attractive to Mandrycky because the city was already home -- sort of.
Her husband, Christian, is completing his doctoral degree in bioengineering at the University of Washington, and Mandrycky was regularly commuting between Seattle and St. Paul.
It wasn't easy.
"I would not recommend it," she said of the lengthy commute. "Some teams handle their analytics team, they'll be remote. But, for me and for Minnesota as well, I think it was really important for my first NHL job to be able to around the team, around the organization, to really familiarize myself with how the NHL worked and how ultimate analytics could serve the organization best."
That meant hopping on a plane a few times each month.
"It's certainly more fun to be in Seattle in January than Minnesota in January," said Mandrycky, who grew up in Atlanta. "When you really love your job and love what you're doing, it was a sacrifice my husband and I were willing to make."
Mandrycky became interested in hockey when she was 17 and she and her future husband were dating.
The Buffalo Sabres, his favorite team, were in the middle of a Stanley Cup Playoff run, and he said she could "hang out with him while the game was on, but we actually had to focus on the game," Mandrycky said.
"That's where I was really introduced to the Buffalo Sabres craziness and hockey in general. From that playoff run, I became a fan of the game."
Mandrycky said that when she got bored, she would start "messing around with hockey data for fun.
"And that's what kind of led to a specific career."