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Golden Knights prospect Peyton Krebs rises to challenges

Peyton Krebs couldn’t catch a break in the past 10 months.

He partially tore his Achilles tendon before the NHL draft. He led his major junior team, the Western Hockey League’s Winnipeg Ice, to the playoffs only to see them canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. So instead of chasing a championship, he’s hanging out with his parents and two brothers in his hometown of Okotoks, Alberta, Canada.

Yet few prospects seem as prepared to rise to these challenges as the Golden Knights’ 2019 first-round pick. The season pushed him in unexpected ways, but Krebs always attacked his hurdles head-on.

“Nobody’s more driven than Peyton Krebs,” said Matt Cockell, the Ice’s president and general manager.

Las Vegas learning

Krebs, 19, doesn’t deny how painful his injury was.

“The Achilles injury really sucked,” he said.

It happened during a predraft workout June 4. The center, 10th in NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings of North American skaters, subsequently fell to the 17th pick — and the Knights.

He did everything within his power to turn the setback into a positive. The Knights oversaw his recovery in the fall, and he spent September, October and parts of November in Las Vegas. That gave him the chance to observe NHL life up close, especially because right wing Mark Stone opened his door to Krebs like he did for Ottawa Senators rookie Brady Tkachuk in 2018.

Krebs soaked up everything he could from watching and living with Stone. He asked Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny questions. He received advice from former WHL players Brayden McNabb and Cody Eakin. He learned about the details pros pay attention to, from their nutrition to their equipment preferences to their prepractice and postpractice warmup and cool-down routines.

Then he saw what could happen if he applied all that knowledge. He could play at T-Mobile Arena, which he quickly grew to love.

“Every night I was in the stands getting shivers,” Krebs said. “You just get into it because everyone else is. I can’t imagine being on the ice, how much louder it would be.”

Return to the ice

Krebs was ready to play as the Ice began a five-game U.S. road trip in November. He signed his entry-level contract with the Knights on Nov. 16 and made his return the next night.

He wasn’t great at first, and the Ice played him only three of the five games to ease him back. But his return had a profound effect on his teammates.

Krebs was named the Ice’s captain when he was 17 last season in a league in which players can be as old as 20. He competes so hard in practice, Cockell said, that “it gives other players no choice but to keep up and keep pushing.”

Getting their leader back turned the Ice’s season around. They were 11-8-1 without Krebs and 27-16-0 after he returned. Knights director of player development Wil Nichol, from afar, was impressed.

“They had a good team,” Nichol said. “But once he got healthy and he got back playing, they became one of the top teams in the Western League.”

Krebs also came back a better player. He became more confident on offense and tighter on defense.

After Christmas, when he started to feel like himself again, he scored 47 points in 27 games.

“I just tried to focus on being a guy that can be reliable in the last two minutes when you’re trying to score a goal,” Krebs said. “And a guy who can keep the puck out of the net in the last two minutes if you’re up a goal.”


Krebs’ progress with his two-way game came to a halt when the WHL canceled the rest of its season.

The news stung Krebs, who had worked so hard to get back on the ice. The playoff berth was the Ice’s first in his three years there. Ironically, their first-round opponent would have been the Brandon Wheat Kings, who are owned by Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon.

Still, like with many of the hurdles he’s seen in the past year, Krebs is trying to take it in stride.

He’s going to his aunt’s house every day to use her exercise equipment and strengthen the lower-body muscles he couldn’t work on last summer. He’s shooting pucks in his garage to improve his shot, one of his areas of focus, along with his defense.

But more than anything else, he’s trying to stay ready for when he can visit a rink again. He wants to show off the strides he’s made whenever development and training camp might be and earn the right to stay in Las Vegas for the second straight fall.

The odds are against him since he has a year of junior eligibility left, but Krebs is used to overcoming obstacles.

“He’s a real special individual,” Cockell said. “His passion is in hockey, and he loves playing hockey, but I’m convinced that whatever Peyton decided to do in life, he’d be successful at it just because of how hard he works at things.”

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

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