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A Night of Hockey, Data, Players and Pucks at PacSci

At Sept. 25 event, NHL Seattle's top three hockey executives will explain how the 'ever evolving' field of hockey analytics will inform who makes the 2021 roster

by Bob Condor / @NHLSeattle_ / NHLSeattle.com

SEATTLE -- As NHL Seattle plans for an inaugural 2021-22 regular season, its hockey operations leaders will use every advantage to build a winning team and organization. That means incorporating hockey analytics as a vital part of the endeavor. 

Fans will get a chance to learn more about NHL Seattle's approach to hockey analytics Sept. 24 during the next session of "The Science of Sports & Entertainment "series at Pacific Science Center. The team's first general manager, Ron Francis, will be joined by the recently hired assistant general manager Ricky Olczyk and director of hockey operations Alexandra Mandrycky to discuss how hockey analytics will help the team select a roster of players during the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft along with its first crack at the NHL Entry Draft for eligible 18-year-olds. The host and moderator will be Ross Fletcher, a sports commentator familiar to Seattle fans for his work with Seattle Sounders FC. 

The "Hockey Analytics: The Numbers Behind the Game" discussion starts at 7 p.m. with a reception and light refreshments during the 6 p.m. hour. The event promises be both informative and offer a way to enjoy the sport in a new way. The audience will learn such terms as quality scoring chances, shooting percentage (pucks on net converted to goals), share of ice time during 5-on-5 play, zone starts, expected goals (balancing quantity vs. quality) and more. 

Francis was among the first NHL executives to hire an analytics specialist during his time with the Carolina Hurricanes. As importantly, he campaigned for the analytics staffer to have a meaningful voice during discussions about player trades, free agent signings and roster moves. 

Mandrycky left an analytics post with the Minnesota Wild to join NHL Seattle. In a move by CEO Tod Leiweke and ownership that signaled deep regard for the contribution of analytics, Mandrycky was hired even before Francis. In fact, she worked up a set of analytics to help make the positive hiring decision about Francis. 

Mandrycky says the hockey analytics is "ever-evolving." 

"Teams are challenged to adapt and incorporate data into all aspects of the hockey organization," she says. "We know that to succeed in a competitive league like the NHL, we must use all tools available as we build the team for 2021, including some big changes coming to the NHL in the next two seasons. I'm excited to share more and discuss alongside Ron and Ricky at the Pacific Science Center."

Olczyk, who started his job right after Labor Day, is aligned with the value of analytics, especially as it applies to the NHL salary cap. Olczyk will be the team's "cap" specialist, managing the minimum and maximum salary amounts that are allowed for NHL 23-man rosters (on any given game night, 20 players dress and there are three "healthy scratches)." He will explain the basics of cap management, plus give his views on contracts both in terms of average annual value (AAV) and the trends in contract length, 

Leiweke and ownership have made it clear NHL Seattle will be a "cap team" that operates at the maximum range for player salaries. 

"It's a huge opportunity for us to get players with the best fit to our organization," says Olczyk. 

"Alex [and future analytics staffers} will be a huge help. It's another ingredient to consider when trying to make best decisions about players."

Those "big changes" mentioned by Mandrycky include player and puck tracking that will be introduced by the league in time for the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. NHL Seattle and fans will be watching how they can use all those million of data points.

There will be a question-and-answer period for the audience. Tickets are $10/CK and available at http://bit.ly/SOSE919 or at the front door if not sold out ahead of time. Please also RSVP to the Facebook event page here: http://bit.ly/PacSciFB919

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