Wednesday, May 5, 2021 | 2 a.m.
Peyton Krebs wasn’t planning on taking his rookie hot lap Monday without a helmet. But when he went to grab it, it was nowhere to be found.
“Didn’t know I was going to go no helmet, but it was pretty fun — nice to have the flow blow in the wind there,” he said with a grin. “It wasn’t there, so I just went on without a helmet.”
He suspects someone may have been pranking him by hiding it, but overall it was a good night for Krebs, even if the game's outcome wasn’t ideal. Krebs, the organization’s top prospect and 2019 first-round draft pick, arrived in the NHL on Monday and immediately made an impact, finishing with an assist and a plus-2 rating in a 6-5 loss to the Wild.
“It was obviously a pretty fun day. Pretty emotional too. It’s been a long time coming,” Krebs said. “Not having my parents here definitely sucked, but I was FaceTiming before the game — and a few tears for sure. A special moment for my family and me. Very exciting.”
The Golden Knights eased him into the lineup, throwing him out there for just 9:05 of ice time, the fewest on the team by more than two minutes, but what they saw they liked. He picked up his first career point in the first period, an assist on Alex Tuch’s goal that Krebs said he thought may have been offside, but was pleased to see it wasn’t challenged or overturned.
It was a small sample of what he can do, but Krebs showed flashes of why he was considered a top-10 talent in the 2019 draft before an Achilles injury let him slide to Vegas at pick No. 17. He’s fast, a terrific skater and has strong vision that leads to some nifty passes, like Tuch’s assist.
“I thought he played really well for us,” captain Mark Stone said. “He’s a guy who’s confident in his ability, you can tell. For a first game I was really impressed.”
The Golden Knights are Krebs’ fourth team in a span of about four months.
Before the season began, Krebs was already on the world stage. He was selected for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships, and registered eight points in seven games to help Canada pick up the silver medal. Once the tournament ended, he came to Vegas and was assigned to AHL Henderson, his professional hockey debut.
He picked up five points in five games there, but once the Western Hockey League fired back up, Krebs was ineligible for the AHL, and the Golden Knights had to decide whether to keep him on the NHL roster or send him to junior.
They opted for the latter, where he was arguably the best player in the league. He led the WHL with 30 assists and 43 points in 24 games, picking up the league’s player of the month for April and finishing with a strong case as its MVP. As soon as the season ended he was on a plane for Vegas, and joined the Golden Knights.
“He jumped right in with both feet — looked confident, made plays,” coach Pete DeBoer. “I wish I could have gotten him out there a little bit more. He deserved to play a little bit more the way he was playing.”
Krebs’ appearance this season comes with some interesting contractual wrinkles. Though he’s 20, this season counts as Krebs’ age-19 season by the NHL math, meaning he is eligible for an entry-level “slide” if he plays fewer than a certain number of games. Under-20 players can have their contracts extended under certain circumstances and Krebs has met those in the past — his three-year deal signed in 2019 still has three years remaining.
His contract can slide for one more year if he plays fewer than seven games this season. His appearance Monday counted as one, meaning he has five more games of a trial run before it burns a year of his contract. And perhaps not so coincidentally, the Golden Knights have five games remaining.
The playoffs count against an entry-level slide, so if Krebs plays the remaining regular season games, any appearance in the playoffs would use a year of his contract. If it slides, he’s eligible for restricted free agency and a big pay day in the summer of 2024. If it doesn’t, he can hit that a year earlier.
So there’s incentive for Vegas to not allow him to hit the seven-game threshold in order to retain his rights for longer. But the Golden Knights’ window for a Stanley Cup is open, and Krebs has done nothing but dominate every lower league he’s been in. It could be worth it for the Golden Knights to use that year of his contract if it means Krebs can help them win playoff games.
That’s a front-office decision, though, and not up to the players or coaches. DeBoer is going to put out the best lineup he can as the Golden Knights fight for the West Division, and it’s hard to argue that Krebs doesn’t make the team better.
And Krebs is going to do everything he can to make that decision as tough on the Golden Knights as possible. His teammates were already impressed.
“He definitely belongs in the NHL. He’s ready for that,” forward Jonathan Marchessault said. “As a young guy your mindset should be you’re never satisfied, you want more, so I think he’s going to be a big part of that run that we’re going to be in in a few weeks.
“If he keeps going that way, I think it’s going to be hard to take him out of the lineup.”