Through the wire: Peyton Krebs to make on-ice return after breaking jaw

The Golden Knights’ top prospect will take part in the Rookie Faceoff in Arizona this weekend, months after a puck to the face derailed his NHL debut.

Peyton Krebs hoped nothing was broken.

Then he felt his back teeth touching.

“I was like, ‘OK, I guess I’m going to be out for a bit,’” he said with a sly laugh.

The NHL stint for Krebs, the Golden Knights’ top prospect, ended as quickly as it began. Krebs played four games before sustaining a fractured jaw May 8 against the St. Louis Blues.

Krebs had his jaw wired shut, something that would even make Kanye West proud. He was living with former Vegas forward Ryan Reaves and his family when the injury occurred, saying if it had not been for Reaves’ wife, Alanna, he “would’ve lost about 40 pounds” having to eat his food through a straw.

“That was terrible,” Krebs said. “I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.”

Krebs will return to game action for the first time since that facial injury on Friday, when the Golden Knights take part in the Rookie Faceoff Tournament hosted by the Arizona Coyotes in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Surprisingly enough, this is Krebs’ first rookie camp as an actual participant. When drafted 17th overall in 2019, Krebs was in Las Vegas rehabbing from a partially torn Achilles. And of course, rookie camp didn’t exist due to COVID-19 in 2020.

“It felt good,” Krebs said Thursday. “The first few drills, just getting through the motions. It felt nice to do some 5-on-5 stuff and get the feel of play and have some fun.”

The past year for Krebs has been a whirlwind. Starting as an extra with the Golden Knights in the Edmonton bubble in 2020, Krebs followed that with being a contributor to Team Canada in the World Juniors tournament, also in an Edmonton bubble. With the uncertainty of a WHL season due to the pandemic, Krebs began his professional career earlier than expected.

Albeit just five games with the Henderson Silver Knights, Krebs looked more than prepared for the next level by averaging a point per game. Krebs scored his first goal and had two assists in his second game Feb. 8 against the Ontario Reign.

In that short time, Silver Knights coach Manny Viveiros learned Krebs played the same way he practiced; a relentless motor and willingness to play for every puck. It helped that the 20-year-old had plenty of hockey under his belt before joining Henderson, but to see it in person, in a live game, was more than he could’ve thought.

“From his injury to now, in three months, he’s a different kid again,” said Viveiros, who will coach the Golden Knights rookies in the tournament this weekend. “A lot of weight loss, but even in that time, he did a great job getting back to game shape, or almost game shape. But you could see that he’s got his bodyweight back again, too. He’s a heck of a hockey player, there’s no question about it.”

The Golden Knights returned Krebs to WHL Winnipeg, where the long-running captain of the Ice was named the Western League’s Player of the Year after leading the league with 43 points in 24 games.

Krebs made his NHL debut in Minnesota on May 3, recording his first NHL point on a primary assist to Alex Tuch. He started that game on the third line and played 9:05, but found his way to top-line left wing in place of the injured Max Pacioretty the following three games.

But Krebs had only one shot on goal in that time. That wouldn’t be significant if it weren’t for the fact that the shot was the one that bounced off his face.

“One thing I did learn is it’s hard to get inside,” Krebs said. “I want to work on my shot a lot, and just get into those square areas and improve my shots on net.”

There is an opportunity for Krebs to make the Golden Knights roster out of training camp, but the numbers game is always a factor. Vegas addressed forward depth in the offseason, acquiring Evgenii Dadonov and Nolan Patrick via trades and re-signing Mattias Janmark to a one-year deal. One glaring omission is Alex Tuch, who will be out until February after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery.

Krebs, a natural center, says he’s feeling comfortable playing on the wing.

“I’ll play anywhere,” Krebs said. “I think I just try to excel at whatever position I play. I was telling someone I played four games at [defenseman] in the Western League. So, just trying to do the best I can whenever I’m on the ice.”