Golden Knights’ Burning Questions: Can Peyton Krebs Stick in the NHL?

My last ‘Burning Questions’ segment addressed how Nolan Patrick might come into play in bolstering the Vegas Golden Knights’ center corps, an area that remains without a clear No. 1 option despite an otherwise loaded group of forwards. Patrick, however, may not be the only new, fresh face to shake up the Vegas depth chart down the middle.

Peyton Krebs finally got his first taste of NHL action this past May with a late-season cup of coffee with the Golden Knights that produced one assist in four games. One way or another, this year should offer more opportunities for the 20-year-old. The question, then, is whether he can chart a path to regular, full-time duty with the club.

Peyton Krebs Golden Knights Draft
Peyton Krebs could make his mark in Vegas this season. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

When it comes to anything below the NHL level, Krebs has little else to prove. In 2020-21, he dominated the Western Hockey League (WHL) as a member of the Winnipeg Ice and remained a point-per-game player during a short American Hockey League (AHL) stint with the Henderson Silver Knights.

Where Krebs Might Slot In

If Krebs’ readiness isn’t in doubt, then finding a place in the Vegas lineup will simply boil down to available opportunities. Down the middle, Chandler Stephenson figures to start the season on the Golden Knights’ top line. But while William Karlsson is a virtual lock to be a mainstay as second-line center along with regular linemates Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith, Stephenson, has decidedly less of a firm grip on the No. 1 role.

Beyond the top two lines, further opportunities emerge. Patrick has an immense ceiling as a former No. 2 overall pick who is still just 22, but if his horrendous 2020-21 season in Philadelphia (four goals, five assists, minus-30 in 52 games) carries over, it’ll be hard for head coach Pete DeBoer to justify playing him ahead of Krebs.

It’s through a pretty unique set of circumstances that the inexperienced Krebs could ultimately emerge as a significant component of a Stanley Cup contender this year. That said, it’s not unprecedented. In fact, it’s hard not to look at the Calgary native’s position within the organization and recall the now-departed Cody Glass. Boasting a similarly high ceiling, the hope is that Krebs can succeed where Glass, no longer with the organization, failed.

Rookie Camp

As with any young prospect looking to break in with the big club, Krebs has plenty working against him, from a relative lack of familiarity with potential linemates to the need to outplay a lineup incumbent. What he does, however, have working in his favor is some added exposure thanks to Vegas’ upcoming rookie camp.

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Set to begin this weekend, the Golden Knights’ rookie camp will feature top organizational prospects like Pavel Dorofeyev, Jack Dugan and Kaedan Korczak competing against future NHLers from the Arizona Coyotes, San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings (from “5 storylines to follow in Golden Knights rookie camp,” David Schoen, Las Vegas Review-Journal, 09/13/21). But Krebs is unquestionably the star attraction for the Vegas side. He won’t earn a roster spot off of his performance here, but the camp could go a long way towards building momentum.

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Krebs has conquered every level of hockey placed in front of him, and there’s little reason to believe he won’t do the same in the NHL. Still, cracking a veteran Golden Knights lineup that carried over much of the group that authored a (tied for) league-best 82 points last season won’t be easy. The club’s surprisingly iffy center depth chart offers hope, and unfortunate as it may be so too does the ever-present possibility of injuries to regulars.

All that to say, we’ll surely see Krebs in a Vegas jersey at some point this year. Whether he sticks will depend on just how well he takes advantage of the opportunity presented.

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