What do sports teams do with all the analytics they collect? One of the biggest challenges is parsing the firehose of collected data to find actionable information. “Player tracking, with the chip in the jersey, tells us where everyone is at all times,” says Walsh, director of hockey analytics for the Vegas Golden Knights. “Add in speed and acceleration data, and it’s making things exponentially more difficult,” he says of his job to advise coaches and staff about player performance.
An economics major, Walsh played forward for the Big Green for four seasons, skating with his older brother Nick ’12 for three of them. When hip surgery derailed Walsh’s professional ambitions, he shifted into the field of sports analytics. “Math was always how I saw things,” he says. “That’s how my mind works.”
Walsh joined the Knights when the franchise entered the NHL in 2018, and he helped devise the team’s strategy for the expansion draft. The Knights defied expectations out of the gate and won the Stanley Cup last June by pounding the Florida Panthers in five games. “With Dustin’s help, we were able to integrate analytics into every decision we make on the hockey side,” says Tom Poraszka, the team’s director of hockey operations. “He’s been an integral part of everything we do.”
Walsh’s understanding of the subtler side of the sport is value-added for a quantitative analyst. “It’s an emotional game and a results-driven game,” he says. “After a tough loss, or with a player close to a coach’s heart, you have to know when and how to bring things up. I think they appreciate that I know what it’s like to be in the dressing room.”