The draft eligible season is one of the most defining periods of a prospect’s career. A good draft season can lead to a high selection at the draft, a lucrative entry level contract, and plenty of opportunity as a player transitions to professional hockey. If things don’t go quite as well, you can find yourself at a disadvantage before your professional career even begins.
There’s a lot at stake, so as a prospect in this situation, you would want to be present in the most ideal situation possible to facilitate success in your 18 year old season. In a perfect world, you would play a team with plenty of good players, but still enough room that you aren’t buried towards the bottom of the lineup, playing second-tier minutes. In a perfect world, you would be flanked by at least one strong player that can bring out the best in you as a player. In a perfect world, you would have a good coach, a manageable amount of pressure, and a healthy amount of experienced players to offer guidance as you hope to realize your NHL aspirations at the Entry Draft.
For some players, this perfect scenario is a reality. But for others, like 2019 draft-eligible forward Peyton Krebs, the situation isn’t quite as seamless. The captain of the Kootenay Ice, Krebs is by far the best player on his team, and often finds himself shackled with two linemates that are nowhere near his skill level. A 16 point gap separates Krebs, the Ice’s leading scorer, from the next best player, Jaeger White. At barely 18 years old, Krebs is already carrying an entire WHL team on his back.
To make matters worse, Krebs has accomplished all this under additional turmoil. After months of rumours, it was recently announced that the Kootenay Ice would be relocating to Winnipeg for the 2019-20.
Through 56 games this season, Krebs has recorded 61 points, a pace of 1.09 points per contest. This is in range of both Dylan Cozens and Kirby Dach’s rates of production, despite their placements on considerably better teams than Krebs. When we look at the percentage of total team goals that the player recorded a point on (INV%), Krebs shows better than both Cozens and Dach.
Krebs, who can play centre or wing but most likely projects as a winger down the road, is an intelligent playmaking attacker capable of creating dangerous opportunities out of nothing.
One element of his game that allows him to be this impactful is Krebs’ skating.
His outstanding mobility is of use all over the ice, whether he’s transitioning the puck, winding around the offensive zone, or stopping an opportunity on the backcheck.
Most impressive is Krebs’ ability to maintain his speed even while he is carrying the puck. He’s one of the premier puck-carriers in the draft class, identifying lanes with his eyes up and attacking them with pace and agility. He has separation speed, able to put space between himself and backcheckers with relative ease.
— CrossBarr Consulting (@Cross_Barr) December 22, 2017
Opportunities off the rush are some of the most dangerous chances a player will get in the course of the game; Krebs is able to maximize the potential of his rushes by eliminating the backchecker from contention.
Here’s an excellent example. As Krebs picks up the puck, there are two American backcheckers even with Krebs, threatening to cut him off and break up the play. By the time he reaches the blue line, a potential 1v3 for Krebs has turned into a 1v1. One of the Americans trying to catch Krebs manages to become a factor in the play once Krebs slows up, but Krebs still manages to top off the play with an excellent pass to a wide open Josh Williams, who makes no mistake.
This ability to take a low percentage play and create additional danger is exceptionally valuable, and a staple of Krebs’ game.
Here’s another example.
It isn’t his skating this time, but Krebs is able to take a 2v2 and turn it into an isolated 3v1 by dancing around a defender. Even more, he manages to complete a magnificent pass while falling, which ends up in the back of the net.
In addition, Krebs is a proficient stickhandler. He isn’t going to break ankles or blow anyone away with his hands, but he mixes deception and quick manipulation of the puck into his offensive profile very well. He’s able to use his stickhandling to create passing lanes, increasing his versatility and danger as a playmaker. If Krebs has a teammate open in the slot, he will find a way to get the puck to that player, even if there’s a defender in the lane.
On this play, Krebs is able to create a passing lane by pulling the puck behind him. It’s a subtle change, but it allows Krebs to slip the puck between the defender and the backchecker.
Here’s another similar play. Krebs moves the puck from his backhand to his forehand, pulling it behind himself in the process. Once again, he creates a lane to slip it past the defender.
Those last two examples were of Krebs creating opportunities off the rush. He’s an excellent distributor on the fast break, but Krebs is also a fantastic playmaker when his team is cycling the puck around the offensive zone. In fact, he might be the best playmaker from below the goal line in the entire draft.
Krebs receives the puck near the faceoff dot and immediately brings it below the goal line. From there, he brings it around the defender and swings it in front of the net to his teammate.
Armed with creativity, outstanding vision, and an abundance of technical passing ability, Krebs can make difficult passes look easy. He generates dangerous opportunities in the slot, consistently putting his teammates in as promising of a position as possible.
But Krebs is more than just a playmaker. A threatening shot from a variety of distances adds a developing scoring element to his game that compliments his passing profile very well. When the defender has to respect a player’s shot, it can open up an another option for the puck carrier to make a play.
Krebs’ shot isn’t overly powerful, but he’s able to compensate by taking shots from closer to the net. He walks the puck in as far as possible before letting the puck go.
Krebs will use the defender as a screen, sometimes even shooting between the opponent’s legs. It’s yet another example of his intelligence shining through.
As a goalscorer, Krebs lags behind his WHL draft-eligible competition. With just under half a goal per game, Dylan Cozens leads the trio of himself, Krebs, and Kirby Dach. Dach is next, with 0.41 tallies per game. In comparison, Krebs’ 0.35 G/GP doesn’t show quite as well. Team quality is responsible for some of that, but it’s clear that Krebs still has plenty of room for growth in the scoring department. In particular, I’d like to see him attack the net more often, both with the puck and without. If he’s able to make that adjustment while adding power to his shot, he could become a proficient goal scorer at the NHL level.
All-in-all, Krebs is a magnificently intelligent playmaker with high-end skill on the puck. Few of his peers are as strong of a playmaker as he is, and although there is work to be done, his scoring ability projects as above-average. Working with essentially nothing in the way of secondary support, Krebs’ ability alone is enough to give the Kootenay Ice a chance in most WHL games. The jury’s still out on just how impactful of an NHLer he’ll be, but Peyton Krebs is an excellent bet as a complimentary player to fill out a team’s top 6 with legitimate upside to be more.