These days, life is different for Peyton Krebs. Long gone is the grind of the Alberta Midget Hockey League playoffs, daily practices and day-to-day life in Strathmore.
He’s back in Okotoks now, finishing up his Grade 10 year at Foothills Composite High School after starting the year at Strathmore High School. Constant change will be the norm for him for the next few years, as he moves around North America in the coming years, pursuing his burning desire to suit up in the NHL.
Outside of his curriculum, Krebs has begun to turn the crank, ratcheting up his summer workout plans following a three-week break after his busiest stretch of hockey.
Before Krebs took the Strathmore Family Centre by storm, before the Kootenay Ice selected him with the first-overall selection in last year’s WHL bantam draft, he was busy rewriting the record books for the Rocky Mountain Raiders.
“The poor guy probably hasn’t been off the ice in the past year and a half,” said Foothills CFR Chemicals Bisons head coach Sandy Henry.
Suiting up in 60 games over two years with the Raiders, he sits as the franchise leader in goals (74), assists (94), points (168) and points per game (2.8). He also led them deep into the spring, reaching the Western Canada Championships in back-to-back years.
“Aside from the Burnaby and North Shore Winter Clubs out in B.C., I don’t know how often Alberta players reach Western’s twice during their bantam career,” said Raiders head coach Mikey Kluner. “Having the desire to get back to Western’s after finishing in second his first year, really speaks to how bad he wants it out there. That might be more impressive than the numbers he was able to put together.”
This season, Krebs was put through another rigorous schedule.
When the puck dropped on the AMHL season back in October, he was one of the younger players in the league, not turning 16 until January 26. It was his busiest season to date, playing in 29 regular season and 12 playoff games with the Bisons, six games with the Ice, five games in the Mac’s Midget AAA Invitational Hockey Tournament and four games as captain of Team Alberta in the Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup.
The break was welcomed and needed, but the passion in Krebs has him back on the ice and in the weight room, already preparing for next season.
Having that type of work ethic doesn’t come naturally, it’s something instilled by his parents and passed down by his older siblings.
“My parents have always said, ‘If you want something, you have to work for it.’ That’s what my brother and sister did and it has worked out for them so far. They have both encouraged me to work hard so I can be successful much like them,” said Krebs.
His older brother, Dakota, plays for the Tri-City Americans in the WHL. The right-handed blue-liner has played in 114 games for the Americans and is ranked No. 153 by NHL Central Scouting for the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
Their sister, Madison, makes her work with music. She has just released her second country album and is moving down to Nashville to pursue her passion at the young age of 20.
“She went against the grain, worked hard and she’s getting to where she wants to be. Having my brother play in the dub has been huge for me; he teaches me the little things about the game, preparing me for how demanding the league will be. They have both showed me that if I want to get somewhere and I work my hardest, things will fall into place,” said Krebs.
Talent has never been a word coaches shy away from when describing Krebs, who tied for the AMHL league scoring title with 40 points.
“He skates well, he’s fast, anticipates the play well and has a high offensive side,” said Bisons head coach Henry.
“I’ve seen it all in my seven years at the bantam level, coaching against the Brayden Point’s (2014 third round pick by the Tampa Bay Lighting) and Tyler Bensen’s (2016 second round pick by the Edmonton Oilers), and he’s right up there with them,” said Kluner.
The aspects of Krebs’ game that Henry was tasked with improving this season, was the play in his own end and strengthening the muscles between his ears.
“We wanted to teach him how to be effective in the defensive zone. He is a young guy in a young body that will only fill out in time, but playing against older, bigger and stronger guys at the next level, you need to be defensively responsible,” said Henry. “We had lots of talks this year about playing at the next level and how he will have to simplify his game next year. I would say he handled those adjustments well this year.”
Whether it was talking to his brother, or watching his favourite players Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews, Krebs is armed with all the right answers following the game, whether his team got eliminated from the playoffs, or following his five-point performance in Edmonton earlier this season.
The talent and creativity jump off the page. Krebs harnesses the vision to float a rink-wide saucer pass, as the puck hangs over defenders sticks like the moon in the sky, landing right on the tape of one of his wingers, shortly blasted to the back of the cage.
“Peyton is a special player and does a lot of things out there that other players in this league can’t do. He has a bright future and we are excited for him,” said former Ice president Jeff Chynoweth told the Strathmore Times back in November. “He probably could have played in this league as a 15-year-old.”
“The one play that sticks out for me this year, was when he went in alone, on a one-on-two against Leduc, split the defenders, cut to the net and roofed it on the backhand, short-side. Not many guys can pull those kinds of moves off in tight spaces like that,” said Henry. “That’s something we couldn’t teach him, to play under pressure and make success out of a play that should have no successful endings.”
The skating ability and agility is eye popping. Just when defenders think they have him on the trolley tracks as he looks to enter the offensive zone, he hits the breaks and literally jumps around the helpless defender and blows past him when returning to earth.
His defensive game is growing, and he has the maturity of a player a decade older than him, perhaps Krebs’ greatest attribute is his burning desire to be the best one on the ice.
“What separates him is his want to be the best player out there. A lot of guys have that, but he wants it more,” said Bisons assistant coach Paden Grant, back in December.
“I want to play in the NHL so bad, I think about it day in and day out,” said Krebs, who has watched every second of the NHL playoffs this spring. “I want to excel and play pro. I need to make it a mindset or it won’t become a reality.”
There is a long road from now until a possible June 2019 entry draft. It begins with hours spent in the weight room this summer, packing on pounds, and evading hits on the ice from a bigger, older brother, working on puck skills, as Krebs prepares himself for puck drop next September at the Western Financial Place in Cranbrook.