Brendan Shanahan's dramatic remaking of the Toronto Maple Leafs front office continued on Tuesday with another big hire out of the Ontario Hockey League.
After a week-long courtship, the Leafs named Mark Hunter – the long-time owner and general manager of the London Knights – to a newly created position as director of player personnel, giving him some considerable clout in the front office.
Hunter, 51, will be tasked with overseeing the Leafs entire scouting operation, on both the pro and amateur side, and the team's player evaluation department.
No one was let go from the Toronto staff to make the hire.
Hunter becomes the second OHL GM hired to the Leafs staff in the last three months, joining assistant GM Kyle Dubas, who had been with the Soo Greyhounds.
"I'm an Ontario boy and I grew up watching the Leafs," Hunter said. "I felt it was a great opportunity for me to show my skills…
"It was an easy decision for myself. It was something I wanted to do and I think it's really the right time in my life right now."
One of Shanahan's top priorities after taking the president's role in April was improving the Leafs on the scouting and development side, but to date, there hadn't been many hires there.
In addition to Hunter joining the staff, the Leafs are also expected to add Wes Clark, also from the Greyhounds, in a development role in the first two of what are expected to be many additions.
A veteran of more than 600 NHL games as a player, Hunter is intimately familiar with the Canadian junior hockey landscape after helping build the Knights into a powerhouse organization.
He also has a relationship with Leafs centre Nazem Kadri from their time together in London and a reputation as an innovator. Hunter spoke on his conference call with reporters on Tuesday about his use of analytics, including looking at scoring chances per minute with the Knights, and what he looks for in a player.
"I like skilled guys," Hunter said. "It's nice to have a skilled guy that's big, strong, but they're harder to find. If you can do both I think you have something special.
"But everybody had doubts on [Blackhawks star] Pat Kane [who played for him in London]. If you would have seen him in minor midget, he was just a little mouse. And now he's bloomed into one of the best. So you really have to evaluate where they're going to go and how good their skills are."
On analytics, he added, "we were always strong in that area with London."
Former NHLer Basil McRae, who also has an ownership stake in the London franchise, is taking over as Knights GM.