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Just 26, Coyotes’ Chayka the youngest GM in NHL history

 

PHOENIX, AZ - MAY 05:  President and CEO Anthony LeBlanc of the Arizona Coyotes (from left to right), President of Hockey Operations Gary Drummond, GM John Chayka and Executive Vice President and Head Coach Dave Tippett pose for a photo during a press conference introducing Chayka as the Coyotes new GM at Gila River Arena on May 05, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

After the Arizona Coyotes relieved Don Maloney of his general manager duties in April, all eyes were squarely focused on who his replacement would be.

The Coyotes stayed in house and on May 5, tabbed 26-year-old John Chayka to lead the rebuilding process in the desert. He turns 27 on June 9.

With the hire, Chayka is now the youngest GM in NHL history. He’s the eighth GM in franchise history.

Chayka joined the Coyotes last season as assistant GM/analytics. He was involved in all areas of hockey operations including NHL, minor league and amateur player evaluation, as well as player development and coaching support.

Prior to joining the Coyotes, Chayka co-founded and served as the director of hockey operations at Stathletes Inc. since 2009. Stathletes is a hockey analytics firm that tracks data through an intensive video analysis process and breaks down the game to provide objective insight into player and team performance tendencies.

“I am extremely grateful for this opportunity,” Chayka said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for (alternate governor and new president of hockey operations) Gary Drummond, (head coach and new executive vice president of hockey operations) Dave Tippett and (president and CEO) Anthony LeBlanc and I look forward to working with them. We are excited about the challenge ahead and focused on taking our team to the next level. We have a great core of players and prospects here and a very bright future ahead of us.”

Tippett also agreed to a new five-year contract.

Under the new structure, Drummond will oversee the Coyotes’ hockey operations department and Tippett will be involved in hockey personnel decisions. Drummond’s main role will be to ensure communication and collaboration within the department and serve as a catalyst for ensuring an alignment of vision and objectives between ownership, management, coaches and the team’s core players.

Drummond was beyond ecstatic about moving Chayka into his new role.

“John is among the best and brightest minds in hockey,” said Drummond. “He is knowledgeable and driven and has an incredible passion for the game. He brings an innovative approach to assessing talent and looking at player development and combined with his strong analytics expertise, we feel that he’s the right choice for the direction we want to go with our franchise.”

A native of Jordan Station, Ont., Chayka earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario in 2014. He was drafted to the Ontario Hockey League in 2005 by the Plymouth Whalers (now Flint Firebirds), but committed to going to college instead. He played Junior A hockey in Canada and was a top scorer in the Maritime Junior Hockey League and also played briefly in the British Columbia Hockey League before suffering a career-ending injury and turning to another side of hockey.

Now hitting the ground running with the Coyotes, Chayka has a full plate right off the bat. Seven players from the season-ending roster, including longtime captain Shane Doan, are unrestricted free agents come July 1 and nine players will become restricted free agents.

Chayka wants to meet with Doan as soon as possible to gauge the 39-year-old’s future and to pin down strategy for this month’s NHL Draft in Buffalo, N.Y., where the team picks seventh in the first round.

“I want to get together with him and really see where he’s at physically and we’re he’s at for next year,” Chayka told ArizonaCoyotes.com. “We’d be thrilled to have him on the ice. But also I want to get his perspective on things. He’s been around for a long time with a lot of successful teams and he’s been around for a lot of teams that haven’t been good enough.

“I want to know how we make this a destination for players to want to play in.”

Photo/Norm Hall

— Matt Mackinder