A trio of brothers are forging a family hockey legacy and putting their hometown on the hockey map in the process.
Hockey fans around the world were introduced to Vegas Golden Knights’ prospect Peyton Krebs over the holidays, as the 2019 Golden Knights’ first-round selection starred for Canada at the 2021 World Junior Championship in Edmonton, AB on the way to winning a silver medal with the host squad.
Regular followers of the Western Hockey League, however, are already well acquainted with the sniper, as well as his two brothers. At least one Krebs brother has played in the WHL every season since 2015-16, and all three played in the league during the 2019-20 campaign.
While Peyton, elder brother Dakota and youngest brother Dru might be a long way from making the Krebs name as synonymous in the game as say the Sutter family, they have established themselves as the first family of hockey in Okotoks, AB, and are helping to establish their southern Alberta hometown as a prairie hockey power.
The Krebs brothers have opposed each other on several occasions during their respective WHL careers. Peyton and Dakota faced each other 12 times head-to-head with Peyton starring for the Kootenay/Winnipeg Ice franchise, and Dakota manning the blue line for the Tri-City Americans and Calgary Hitmen. Dakota’s teams held a decisive 10-2 advantage in those affairs.
Youngest brother Dru, a 17-year old defenseman with the Medicine Hat Tigers who earned a ‘C’ rating in NHL Central Scouting’s January Players to Watch for the 2021 draft, will carry the family torch in the WHL going forward, as the league is hoping to salvage the 2020-21 season with a 24-game schedule.
Not to be outdone, sister Maddison moved to Nashville, TN to pursue her career as a country singer. The Krebs family was featured when Rogers Hometown Hockey made a stop in their hometown of Okotoks, AB in 2019.
Here is a closer look at the careers of each brother.
Peyton, 19, debuted with the Kootenay Ice in 2016-17 and became a star for the following three seasons and captain the team as the franchise relocated to Winnipeg in 2019-20. The 5-foot-11 playmaker totaled 49 goals and 188 points in 175 games during his junior career and captained the team for his final two seasons.
In the weeks leading up to the 2019 NHL Draft, Krebs sustained a partially torn Achilles, requiring surgery. He worked his way back midway through the season, and had a torrid second half, posting 60 points in just 38 games. Krebs then earned a place inside the NHL’s return-to-play bubble in Edmonton with the Golden Knights in the summer of 2020.
During the 2021 WJC, Krebs registered three goals and eight points, helping Canada to the gold medal game where they were blanked 2-0 by Team USA. Krebs and Canadian defenseman Kaeden Korczak, who plays for the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets, headlined the Golden Knights prospects at the tournament.
At 21, defensemen Dakota is the senior of the three Krebs brothers, having graduated from the WHL at the conclusion of the 2019-20 season.
The 6-foot-4 defender reached the lofty 300 games plateau, suiting up in a grand total of 308 games over five seasons (2015-20). As a 16-year old rookie in 2015-16, Krebs played in 44 games for Tri-City, and remained a key piece of their blue line until a midseason trade to Calgary in 2017-18. Along the way, he collected 13 goals and 62 points and was part of two playoff teams, including the 2018-19 Hitmen, for whom he tallied a goal and seven points in 11 playoff games.
Krebs is now at the University of Calgary where he would have played his first season with the Dinos had the 2020-21 U SPORTS season not been lost due to COVID.
The Dinos, who list 20 former WHL players on their 2020-21 roster, were expected to join Mount Royal University in Red Deer, AB in December to play exhibition games against Canada’s WJC selection camp hopefuls before two COVID cases prompted a two-week quarantine for Team Canada personnel. That exhibition series was to be a one-year alternative to the annual exhibition matchups between U SPORTS all-star teams and Canada’s selection camp roster. It also would have pitted Dakota and Peyton against each other one more time.
Youngest brother Dru is a highly mobile defenseman who melds components of each of his brothers’ skill sets.
The 5-foot-11, 170-pound defenseman played in 55 games for the Tigers as a 16-year old rookie in 2019-20, chipping in three goals and 13 points. After Peyton returned from his injury for the final 32 games of 2019-20 with Winnipeg, all three brothers played in the WHL simultaneously. Dru’s Tigers split the season series against both of his brothers, going 3-3 against Calgary and 2-2 against the Ice.
Krebs’ smaller frame and strong skating on the back end creates a player who is unique from the other brothers, who could be heard from in the near future when it comes to draft or WJC discussions.
If the WHL is successful in their commitment to play a 24-game 2020-21 regular season, expect the youngest of the Krebs trio to take on a new level of responsibility in his second season on the back end for Medicine Hat.
Okotoks Prospect Factory
You would be forgiven if the Krebs’ hometown of Okotoks, AB wasn’t on your radar yet as one of Canada’s great sports towns.
In addition to producing the Krebs brothers, Okotoks, which is located a short drive south of Calgary, AB, is also home to the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Okotoks Oilers. The Oilers have built themselves into a perennial contender in the South Division of the AJHL, frequently battling with the rival Brooks Bandits atop the standings.
The Oilers attract and produce top-end talent, headlined by recent first-round NHL Draft picks and Canadian WJC veterans Jacob Bernard-Docker and Dylan Holloway.
Bernard-Docker wore an Oilers’ uniform for two seasons (2016-18), totaling 27 goals and 63 points in 103 before he went on to star with Canada at the 2020 WJC and become the Ottawa Senators’ first selection in the 2018 draft.
The dynamic defenseman broke out during his second AJHL season in Okotoks, registering 20 goals and 41 points in 49 games on his way to being named the CJHL’s top defenseman for 2017-18. He also earned a trip to the CJHL Top Prospects Game and competed in the World Junior-A Championship.
The banner season for the Canmore, AB native culminated in his name being called 26thoverall by the Senators in 2018. He then headed to the University of North Dakota, where he struck for seven goals and 25 points in 32 games during his sophomore season in 2019-20. He also helped Canada win gold at the 2020 WJC in the Czech Republic.
Gino De Paoli is the radio play-by-play voice of the Okotoks Oilers and watched a young Bernard-Docker on a nightly basis for two seasons.
“I saw (Bernard-Docker’s) raw talent and hockey IQ show during his CJHL & AJHL defenseman of the year season in 2018,” De Paoli said in an interview for THW. “He knew how to control a game; when to speed it up and when to slow things down. He was already a true puck mover with an incredible release and his ability to see the ice was outstanding.”
Bernard-Docker moved on to the University of North Dakota for the 2018-19 season, where he currently shares the blue line with fellow Senators’ prospect, 2020 first-round pick Jake Sanderson.
THW’s own Dayton Reimer wrote about why Bernard-Docker is one of Ottawa’s most promising defense prospects.
Now in his third season at UND, Bernard-Docker has netted 13 goals and 48 points in 84 career games.
Potent centerman Holloway traded the green and gold of the Okotoks Oilers for Edmonton Oilers blue and orange when he was drafted 14thoverall in 2020.
The Calgary, AB native starred with the Oilers for two seasons (2017-19), punctuated by his 40-goal, 88-point campaign in 2018-19, which earned him AJHL Most Valuable Player and CJHL Player of the Year honors. During his two seasons in Okotoks, Holloway also played at the 2018 World Junior A Championship and the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
During his time in Okotoks, Holloway billeted with the Krebs family, where he formed a relationship with Peyton, who later became his teammate on Team Canada at the 2021 WJC. Playing in his future NHL home rink at Rogers Place, Holloway notched a goal and two points.
“What impressed me about (Holloway) from day one was his skating,” De Paoli remembered of Holloway’s time playing for Okotoks. “He had all the tools right away as a rookie and was a dominant force in the league, which lead him to success at the U-17’s & World Junior-A Challenge. After those experiences, plus the Hlinka Gretzky Cup gold medal heading into his AJHL & CJHL MVP season, he put it all together.”
De Paoli noted Holloway’s ability to win puck battles, his blazing speed and ability to make his teammates better because of his vision of the ice, as reasons why he knew Holloway was special.
Okotoks and Brooks locked horns in the third round of the 2018-19 AJHL playoffs with the Bandits taking the series in six games on their way to winning the CJHL national championship.
Holloway headed south in 2019-20 to play for the University of Wisconsin, joining forces with Montreal Canadiens’ 2019 first-round pick Cole Caufield and 2018 New York Rangers first-rounder K’Andre Miller.
In his first season of college hockey, Holloway put up eight goals and 17 points in 35 games for the Badgers. In eight games this season, he has registered three goals and ten points.
Peyton is now focused on cracking the lineup in Vegas, which will not be an easy task on a team that has become accustomed to playoff success early in the franchise’s lifespan.
It appears that Dakota will have to wait to see regular-season action with the University of Calgary after the 2020-21 Canada West and USPORTS season was canceled due to the pandemic, and earlier thoughts of alternative options for gameplay this season have been quashed due to COVID.
Dru suited up for the AJHL’s Oilers on an emergency basis for one regular-season game last November in his only live game action so far this season. If and when the 2020-21 season gets underway, Krebs is slated to be one of three 2003-born defensemen on a young blue line in Medicine Hat.
If there was any sibling rivalry in the Krebs household, it has certainly brought out the best in each of them. As they push each other to be their best, they continue to establish the Krebs name in hockey conversations and are helping to put Okotoks, AB on the map as one of the best hockey towns on the Canadian prairies.
Jonathan covers the Saskatoon Blades and the Victoria Royals of the WHL. He has extensive experience in hockey and sports journalism and broadcasting. This includes bylines at Sports Spectrum, Toronto Blue Jays, Victoria Grizzlies, DUBNetwork as well as a long-time role with the Canadian Baseball Network.