When you're trading away a franchise center (even an injured one), you gotta get some goodies back in return. In dealing Jack Eichel to Vegas, the Buffalo Sabres acquired power forward Alex Tuch and a couple of high draft picks, but they also got rookie Peyton Krebs – a kid flush with potential.
Though he has already played nine games for the Golden Knights this season, Krebs can still be considered the 'high-end prospect' in the deal since the 20-year-old is just beginning his NHL career.
So who is Peyton Krebs? Glad you asked.
We've actually been writing about Krebs for years now at The Hockey News, as he was always highly-touted coming out of his home province of Alberta. Krebs was the first overall pick in the 2016 WHL bantam draft, taken by the Kootenay Ice – who have since moved and become the Winnipeg Ice.
By his second season, Krebs was the captain of the Ice and he wore the 'C' for three years, with last season being his final stint with the team. The young center was a hot prospect for the 2019 draft, but his stock dropped in part due to a bad Achilles injury sustained during training just weeks before the draft. Krebs, whom I ranked 12th on my final list, fell to Vegas at No. 17 and had to push himself around the bowels of Rogers Arena in Vancouver to do press interviews on one leg, with the other elevated on a rolling walker.
Due to the pandemic, the WHL played an abbreviated 24-game schedule last season and the now-healthy Krebs blasted away the competition, earning league MVP honors and racking up 43 points. He also helped Canada earn a silver medal at the world juniors in Edmonton, while making his pro debut with the AHL's Henderson Silver Knights (where he notched five points in five games) and with Vegas, getting into four games.
But as Krebs told me during the NHL playoffs last season, he also got great experience as a Black Ace in Vegas' past two post-seasons.
"I'm taking a lot away from this, what I want to do moving forward and how I want to play: I want to be a playoff player," he said at the time. "I'm the same every day, I go out the same whether I'm playing or not. Every day I'm trying to get better, that's the goal."
Having multiple stops last year also benefitted Krebs, as he was able to play more games and get more reps than a lot of teenagers who were impacted by the pandemic schedule.
Krebs can play both center or wing and it will be interesting to see where the Sabres place him – Buffalo isn't exactly killing it in the faceoff department right now, though Krebs himself hasn't taken many draws this season and still needs to grow in that area.
Having said that, the potential in Krebs is very good. He is flat-out nasty to play against, bringing a lot of sandpaper to every shift, but he's a projected top-six forward thanks to his playmaking skills. In a perfect world, the Sabres develop Dylan Cozens into a big, scoring center and Krebs either slots in behind him as a pivot, or shifts to the wing on one of the top two lines. Add in emerging wingers Jack Quinn and J.J. Peterka (both playing their first AHL seasons with Rochester right now) and of course the in-his prime Tuch, and the future of Buffalo's offensive attack looks very different than it does right now.
In Vegas, Krebs was finding his way on a very deep team. Now in Buffalo, he'll get the chance to shine a bit quicker – and the kid certainly has the character, talent and drive to do so.