Peyton Krebs, Kootenay Ice (WHL)
Age on Draft Day: 18.41 Years Old
Height/Weight: 5’11, 181 pounds
2018-2019 Stats: 64 GP, 19 G, 49 A, 63 PIM
NHL Central Scouting (North America only): 10th
ISS Hockey: 10th
Bob McKenzie: 12th
Craig Button: 17th
Krebs is an appealing combination of skill and effort. The theme of the top-10 so far has been creative, playmaking centers, and Krebs fits that mold just about as well as anyone. He’s very good at opening up his hips, which allows him to make some incredible passes against the grain. He anticipates plays very well and has a great feel for the puck and his stick, and so he can set teammates up with a strong variety of well-placed and weighted passes; slot-line feeds, low-to-high, stretch passes, backhand saucers, etc.
On passing alone, Krebs ranks above all the draft-eligible WHL centers; both Kirby Dach and Dylan Cozens.
There are mixed thoughts about Krebs’ skating, though everyone will agree that it’s an asset of his. Corey Pronman of The Athletic wrote:
“Some scouts feel his feet are high end. I see more just good, but I see the argument for his overall pace.”
Meanwhile, Jeremy Davis of NextGen Hockey said:
“Krebs is a phenomenal skater, among the best in the WHL. He’s explosive, agile and elusive, making separation between him and defenders seem effortless.”
I tend to side with Corey here. I don’t view him as an elite skater. He’s not going to blow up the opposition with his wheels the way players like Chris Kreider and Andreas Athanasiou are able to. Still, his skating is a major asset in a number of ways. He’s quick to the jump and accelerates quickly. He can pull away in straight-line races which makes him a major threat on transition plays. He is dexterous on his feet and makes up for his lack of size with maneuverability. He does a pretty good job of sidestepping contact and locking up defenders’ legs with quick pivots.
If there is an aspect to Krebs’ game that stands out relative to the rest of this draft class, it’s that he’s such an incredibly hard worker who never takes a passive role no matter where the play is on the ice. He works hard in the neutral zone to cover his assignments and battle for pucks. He’s a great defensive forward who will play the PK at pro levels and can create shorthanded chances.
Krebs’ numbers are fairly strong. Registering 68 points in 64 games would be pretty damn good in any circumstances. He was 15th among all WHL forwards in primary assists and 3rd among all U19 forwards.
But what is so incredibly important to note about Krebs is that his teem, the Kootenay Ice, were absolutely horrible. They had just 11 regulation or overtime wins in 68 games and a -142 goal differential. He had virtually no talent around him; Jaeger White and Jakin Smallwood are decent WHL players, but that’s about it. He was the go-to player in practically every situation for Kootenay. He needed to create zone entries, and set up offensive zone plays, and take important defensive shifts. And so on.
You have a player for whom the opposition could easily gameplan and target. Krebs had little help around him as any sort of a release valve. Not to mention a tsunami of relocation rumors surrounding the franchise all season long (which eventually became confirmed, as the team will relocate to Winnipeg for 2019-2020.) That he succeeded in these conditions not only speak to his talent, but also his will. As frustrating as the situation must have been for him, it’s going to set him up for the pressure, anxiety, and difficulties in pro hockey. Pro scouts are going to look at him as a player who has passed some tough tests and won’t take any success for granted.
Krebs showed what he can do on a capable team, as he tied Alex Newhook for Canada’s leader at the 2019 U18’s in points, registering 10 in 7 games. His game had a whole new life to it when surrounded by similarly skilled players who could build off of his efforts.
I see two flaws in Krebs’ game which prevent him from ranking higher. First, I do think size is somewhat of an issue. He’s 5’11 and 180, and there are smaller players who have succeeded in the NHL. But in my viewings he lacked strength. As mentioned before, he’s a hard worker who battles, but at some point physics does take over and he seems to lack the ability to handle bigger players. I question if his long-term future is truly at center.
He also lacks goal scoring ability. Given an open look below the circles or an odd-man rush, he can put the puck in the net. But generally speaking he’s not much of a shooter. Just 19 goals in 64 games this past season. His wrist shot is merely okay. His release is pretty good but there’s not much in the way of velocity. I simply don’t project him as much of a goal scorer in the NHL, though I hedge this thought by pointing out that Krebs may prove to score more goals with more competent teammates surrounding him.
I like Krebs a lot - I would not rank him in the top-10 otherwise - but I’m not convinced he really has the potential to be a marquee player in the NHL. Rather, his ceiling is in the mold of a quality second-tier player. Someone who plays second line minutes and takes the role of playmaker on a line with a quality finisher. He’ll be a high-octane player who battles every shift and makes creative plays.
What Others Have Said
“Krebs’ hockey sense is on full display when he’s making moves, creating space, and orchestrating opportunities for himself and linemates.”
“He’s as hard-working as any skilled player that I’ve ever been around, NHL or junior.”
- Kootenay Ice Head Coach James Patrick, via EP Rinkside