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Penguins GM Candidate: Eric Tulsky, a Unique and Impressive Resume`



Pittsburgh Penguins GM search, Eric Tulsky

As the Pittsburgh Penguins GM search narrows, it has become clear that Penguins ownership, The Fenway Sports Group, has a specific type. FSG targets are smart people with analytics knowledge and slightly unique backgrounds, not necessarily from the hockey establishment. The list includes Carolina Hurricanes assistant GM Eric Tulsky.

Tulsky came to hockey from a unique path. His hockey start came when he created a hub for hockey analytics, Outnumbered, on the blog platform SBnation.

However, his background had little to do with hockey.

According to his speaker’s bio when he spoke at the MIT Sports Analytics Conference, he has a B. A. in chemistry and physics from Harvard University, a Ph. D. in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, “and has previously engaged in research helping to enable unique nanotechnology solutions to problems in DNA sequencing, solar energy, displays, and energy storage.”

Tulsky even keeps a LinkedIn page, which further lists his qualifications as 10 years in inorganic chemistry. He worked as a researcher, manager, and project leader to use nanomaterials for biological and energy applications.

From John Chayka to Tulsky, it’s clear FSG likes smart people, though we should note Tulsky is from Philadelphia.

Tulsky’s role with Carolina quickly expanded after he joined the organization in 2014. From one year as a part-time consultant to hockey analyst in 2015, promoted to manager of analytics in 2017, V.P. of management and strategy in 2018, to AGM in 2020.

“I am also naturally a data-driven thinker and transitioned to leading the data science effort for the Carolina Hurricanes, building predictive and diagnostic models to assess players and on-ice strategies and communicating the results across the organization,” reads Tulsky’s LinkedIn profile.

“My management skills and abilities as a strategic thinker have led to me branching out into a broader role of organizational leadership for the Hurricanes. While continuing to oversee the data analysis staff, I have also taken on roles overseeing the pro scouting staff and the staff that manages player contracts and the salary cap.”

Sources tell Hockey Now that Tulsky is high on FSG’s list to fill one of the Penguins’ front office vacancies, presumably the general manager post.

Reports of the time in Carolina indicate the trade to acquire Jordan Martinook and the free-agent signing of Jesper Fast were tied to Tulsky’s influence with Carolina GM Don Wadell. Both Martinook and Fast are integral role players with above-board analytics numbers.

Carolina acquired Martinook from Chayka and the Arizona Coyotes for Marcus Kruger and a third-round pick.

To Wadell’s credit, the Carolina org has not blocked Tulsky from interviewing with the Penguins, unlike other teams, such as Chicago and the New York Rangers, who reportedly denied FSG permission to speak with candidates.

The Carolina Hurricanes have been shrewd with free agent signings over the last several years but also thought outside the box when they tendered a contract to then-21-year-old Montreal Canadiens RFA Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who signed a one-year, $6.1 million offer sheet in September 2021.

The Canadiens did not match it and received Carolina’s 2022 first and third-round picks.

The following year, the Hurricanes closed the loop on the transaction when they signed Kotkaniemi to a more cap-friendly eight-year deal worth $38.56 million ($4.82 million AAV).

The final analysis of the deal looks good for Carolina. They acquired a young second-line center on a bargain contract for a first and third-round pick. This season, Kotkaniemi had 43 points, including 18 goals.

The move was one of the rare RFA offer sheets and rankled many in the hockey establishment. Since 2020, Carolina has made several under-the-radar or bargain UFA signings, including Stefen Noesen and Ondrej Case.

The Hurricanes have also been at the front of a recent trend, which is still being debated in hockey circles. Rather than investing heavily in a No. 1 goalie, Carolina has employed a tandem of 1A-type netminders, Antii Raanta and Frederick Andersen.

Tulsky’s role in the signings or trades is unknown, though his rapid rise through the organization indicates his opinions carried weight. Carolina has made the playoffs in five straight seasons and are making their second appearance in the Eastern Conference Final during that span.

Should Eric Tulsky become the next Pittsburgh Penguins GM, he may also find common ground with Penguins backup goalie Casey DeSmith. Tulsky’s resume lists that he was part of Harvard’s Ultimate Frisbee team from 1993-1997.