You wouldn’t think that a former poker pro and author would be much help to an NHL team. However, the New Jersey Devils are really banking on Sunny Mehta to help save their season. New Jersey, a team that’s missed the postseason three straight years, is hoping that Mehta can use analytics to them find good players. This being said, let’s discuss how Mehta’s mastery of data and numbers could help the Devils spark a turnaround from previous years.
Mehta left Day Trading Job for NHL Position
A native of Wyckoff, N.J., Mehta originally set out to be a musician and played jazz in New Orleans during the early 2000s. However, after Hurricane Katrina, he was forced to relocate and ended up in Las Vegas. Here Mehta spent five years grinding in poker cash games while also building a reputation as an author. Along with Ed Miller and Matt Flynn, he penned “Professional No Limit Hold ‘Em: Volume I” and “Small Stakes No-Limit Hold’em.”
In 2011, Matthew Hulsizer was interested in buying the Phoenix Coyotes and also wanted somebody to run analytics for the team. He eventually met up with Mehta and, although failing to attain the Coyotes, Hulsizer hired the ex-poker player to work for him at an options trading company called Peak6. Mehta spent three years at Peak6, until he received a call last year that the Devils were looking for someone with his skills.
Being a huge New Jersey Devils fan his whole life, he decided to interview for the job. And it was a brutal interview, with owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer asking him lots of difficult questions. But in the end, he beat out around 500 other candidates to become the league’s first full-time analytics director.
“If it were any of the other 29 teams, I’d still be in Chicago,” he said. “It was the Devils. I had to check it out.”
Mehta puts his Poker Skills to work for the Devils
The 37-year-old has used numbers for a decade to succeed as both a poker player and options trader. So it’s little surprise that Mehta has been entrusted with pouring over advanced statistics to find players who can improve the Devils’ roster. Specifically, he watches videos and tries to use data he collects to help the team with player acquisitions.
But even with Mehta working hard in the analytics office, New Jersey has a long road ahead of them if they want to improve. Once a top-notch hockey team, the Devils are coming off their lowest point total since the 1988-89 season. And many expect the team to finish towards the bottom of the Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference standings.
However, Mehta is doing his best to embody the chip-and-a-chair philosophy from poker and not give up on the season already.”Never underestimate the randomness of hockey,” said Mehta. “It’s not impossible that we exceed