Pete DeBoer admitted he should’ve played Peyton Krebs more.
For his first NHL game, Krebs more than looked the part.
The Golden Knights’ 2019 first-round pick played third-line center in his debut, skating with Nicolas Roy and Alex Tuch.
“Really fun day. Pretty emotional, too. It’s been a long time coming,” Krebs said Tuesday, his first remarks since his debut. “Not having my parents here definitely sucked, but we Facetimed before the game and [there were] some tears for sure.”
Krebs played 9:05 in his first game fresh out of junior hockey. The former three-year captain of the Winnipeg Ice from the Western Hockey League posted a league-best 43 points in 24 games. This came after averaging a point per game with the Henderson Silver Knights for a brief stint in February.
“I actually thought he was excellent [Monday] when you consider the circumstances, just coming back from his junior season,” DeBoer said. “He really hadn’t skated since pregame skate today since last Wednesday. He jumped right in with both feet, looked confident, made plays. He deserved to play a little more the way he was playing.”
Albeit less than 10 minutes, Krebs looked comfortable. There’s not much to nitpick off 15 shifts and less than 10 minutes of ice time. In that shortened time, the vision and skating ability that makes him a tantalizing prospect was on display.
“For me, just the bigger bodies. In junior, there’s no 30-year-old men trying to come at you and hit you,” Krebs said. “I think the speed felt good for me. I felt fine in that sense.”
Krebs scored his first NHL point with an assist on Tuch’s goal at 12:20 of the first period, giving Vegas a 3-2 lead. Three Wild players converged on Krebs as he pulled up at the blue line. Before Tuch’s back skate crossed the line, Krebs’ pass hit Tuch in stride. Tuch beat Cam Talbot far side and no offsides was called.
The young center thought it was coming back.
“I thought it was offsides,” Krebs said. “We scored and I was fired up. It was close.”
From the moment Krebs wrapped up his time with Team Canada during World Juniors, he’s been ready for the pros. He showed it during his brief time in Henderson and proved it when he tore up the WHL in that short time.
There’s cause for palpable buzz behind Krebs’ arrival, and it goes beyond the shiny-new-toy effect. Highly-touted prospects in the Vegas organization don’t get a call-up this late in the season on a whim. There were the occasional debuts for Zach Whitecloud and Jimmy Schuldt, with the Stanley Cup Playoffs well in hand, but not in a situation where the Golden Knights still fight for positioning.
Krebs’ debut came as a shock. Even with Cody Glass having injury trouble with the Silver Knights, the fact Krebs is on the main roster with five games to go in the regular season, and Glass isn’t, is a huge tell of which young player tops the totem pole.
That’s not to say Glass and Krebs can’t be on the Golden Knights at the same time. They very much can. I don’t think the Golden Knights have fully given up on Glass. There’s a reason why he’s the last of the 2017 triplets, same with why he was never traded for Erik Karlsson in 2018.
The Golden Knights are trying to find the easiest path through the postseason, as DeBoer always eludes to. That path involves winning the West Division and having home-ice advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs.
If the Golden Knights felt Glass was a valuable part in that run right now, he wouldn’t be with Henderson. He’d be in Minnesota contributing to this playoff run.
Instead, general manager Kelly McCrimmon is playing with house money. Krebs plays the final five games of the season; if he plays well, his eventful hockey year continues by being on an NHL playoff roster. If he doesn’t, at worst, Krebs is with the Silver Knights playing in the AHL Pacific Division championship tournament.
Either way, Southern Nevada will be Krebs’ new home for a while. He can get comfortable in his new surroundings.
“I thought he played really well for us,” said captain Mark Stone. “He’s a guy who’s confident in his ability. You can tell. For his first game, I was impressed.”