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Golden Knights prospect Peyton Krebs plays first game for Winnipeg Ice

Updated November 18, 2019 - 5:28 pm

Hockey is Peyton Krebs’ passion. So having that taken away from him the last few months was painful.

Sunday, though, he was back. The Golden Knights’ 2019 first-round pick played in his first game for his major junior team, the Winnipeg Ice, since suffering a partially torn Achilles tendon before the June draft.

He wasn’t perfect, or even great, and the Ice lost 4-1 to the Portland Winterhawks in Portland, Oregon. But he played. And for Sunday, that was enough.

“Anytime you are away from the game for a while you are going to have those adjustments to make,” Krebs told reporters after the game. “I could feel it for sure. As the game went on I think it felt better. Still a lot of things to work on, but it is a start for me.”

Krebs, a 5-foot-11 center from Calgary, Alberta, finished with one assist, two shots on goal and a 45 percent faceoff winning percentage (9-of-20) in his first game back. The Ice (9-11-1) are hoping his presence gives them a boost. Not just because of his impressive two-way play that caused the Knights to take him 17th overall despite his injury. Because the 18-year-old is mature beyond his years.

Krebs captained Team Canada at the 2019 International Ice Hockey Federation World U18 Championships in January and is a leader for the Ice.

“What he does for the culture, what he does for everyone in the room, and how he carries himself, interacts with his teammates, how focused he is on getting better every day, what his practice habits are like, I’ve never seen a high-skilled player like him,” Ice coach James Patrick told reporters after the game. “I know all of our 18-, 17-, 16-year-olds really look up to him.”

The Ice aren’t only getting a leader in Krebs; they’re getting a hungry player. He spent much of his rehab time in Las Vegas and got a taste of the NHL lifestyle. He stayed with right wing Mark Stone and his girlfriend Hayley Thompson, attended the Knights’ Halloween party, practiced with the team Tuesday and signed his entry-level contract Saturday.

Now it’s up to him to knock off the rust, play well and try to force the Knights’ hand next training camp.

“Anytime you can live with an NHLer, be around that atmosphere, it is pretty motivating,” Krebs said. “(Stone and Thompson) were really welcoming, they are great people, they made it easy on me to rehab as fast as I could.”

Street hockey clinic

Knights forwards Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny hosted a street hockey clinic at Doc Pearson Community Center in North Las Vegas on Monday. It was part of their “Paul and Patches” program, which tries to introduce hockey to disadvantaged youth.

Pacioretty, who is one of the few NHL players of Hispanic descent, said it’s important to him to try and expand the game. Only a few of the about 40 attendees said they had played hockey before Monday. Pacioretty hopes many of the kids will now give the sport a second chance.

“Obviously, coming from Montreal you never meet a kid that never played hockey,” Pacioretty said. “So to come in a gym full of kids who had never played and at the end say they were looking forward to playing again is really special.”

More Golden Knights: Follow at reviewjournal.com/GoldenKnights and @HockeyinVegas on Twitter.

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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