Peyton Krebs has high expectations for himself and he may have to remember that patience could be the key to his quest of earning a roster spot with the Vegas Golden Knights.
The 20-year-old found himself going from center to wing and line to line Sunday in the Golden Knights preseason opener against the San Jose Sharks at T-Mobile Arena. He competed well, but he didn’t necessarily stand out as the Sharks used open space in the slot to score three of their four goals in what would be a 4-2 win over the Knights at T-Mobile Arena.
Krebs saw 17:21 in ice time over 21 shifts. He had two shots on goal, two takeaways and four giveaways and was minus-1 for the evening.
“I feel really comfortable,” Krebs said of the NHL environment he’s trying to establish himself in. “But I still have a lot to prove.”
Indeed. Showing flashes of brilliance at times is one thing. Playing at a high level on a consistent basis is quite another. Sunday, Krebs was one of a number of prospects on display for Peter DeBoer as the Golden Knights prepare for Year Five as an NHL franchise. DeBoer has seen enough of Krebs the last two postseasons to believe his time is coming.
“He’s an NHL player,” DeBoer said of Krebs, who made his Golden Knights debut May 3 vs. Minnesota and had an assist in his first game. He appeared in four games only to have a puck hit him in the face off a deflected shot by Shea Theodore vs. St. Louis that resulted in a fractured jaw and prematurely ended his season. “It’s just a question of when.
“He’s going to get a really good look in the exhibition games.”
Sunday, another Golden Knight — Mark Stone — suffered a somewhat similar fate when Brayden McNabb’s first-period shot was deflected and caught Stone on the side of his head. The Captain did not return after playing just 3:05.
Krebs, who had come back from a cut Achilles tendon he suffered while playing in juniors and caused his draft stock to drop out of the top 10 (the Golden Knights selected him at No. 17 in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft), said he tries not to think about injuries.
“I play hockey. There’s going to be a risk of injuries,” he said. “You try not to think about things you can’t control.”
Krebs got a head start on his season when he participated in the Coyotes Rookie Faceoff Tournament last week. He played in two of the three games and looked good out there against other prospects.
One NHL team scout said of Krebs, “I just love everything about the way he plays. His energy and his ability to distribute the puck and drive play. He’s just so versatile.”
Another scout said: “Krebs has got really quick hands. He can skate; he can make plays. He’s still a little bit on the smaller side, but he’s smart enough that he could probably figure it out.”
Krebs looks comfortable playing in an NHL game, even if it’s in the preseason. The speed of the game doesn’t seem to be an issue. He’s still trying to get comfortable with his linemates. Sunday, DeBoer had him skating with Brett Howden and Paul Cotter. He took a whirl on the top line after Stone went out, skating with Max Pacioretty and Chandler Stephenson. He also skated with Nolan Patrick and Evgenii Dadonov after Mattias Janmark took over for Stone in the second period and stayed there the rest of the way.
But Krebs seemed fine wherever DeBoer used him. He didn’t dominate. Nor was he detriment to his team whenever he was on the ice.
“I think the bubble experience for me was huge,” he said, referring to two years ago in Edmonton where he skated with the Golden Knights. “It helped get the nerves out.”
What really has helped Krebs is he is maturing physically. He’s bigger, stronger and faster. His hockey IQ remains strong and he’s a quick learner. His skills are evident at this level after he dominated in junior hockey during a truncated season in the Western Hockey League with the Winnipeg ice. Krebs led the WHL with 43 points in 24 games (13 goals, 30 assists). Eight of his 13 goals were scored on the power play.
He also learned off the ice. He had spent time with Stone and former Golden Knight Ryan Reaves, who took him in after Krebs fractured his jaw and being around a couple of veterans helped him mature.
Now, he’s 100% healthy and he hopes his injuries that had put him on the shelf for extended periods are a thing of the past.
“I know I have a great opportunity,” Krebs said of his quest to claim a spot on the Golden Knights roster. “I want to make sure I make the most of it.”