He hasn't played a regular-season game in almost nine months, but Peyton Krebs has been one of the busiest players in junior hockey over that time.
After four-month stint in the NHL's Edmonton bubble with the Vegas Golden Knights and now in the midst of extended stay at Hockey Canada's world junior selection camp, the 19-year-old Winnipeg Ice centre has had a jam-packed year even as he waits for a 14-day quarantine to end in Red Deer, Alta.
Defenceman Thomas Harley, another Team Canada hopeful who joined the Dallas Stars for their run to the Stanley Cup final, has been setting the pace for all bubble players.
"He's probably the king, I'm second," said Krebs with a laugh Wednesday.
His Knights were eliminated by Dallas in the Western Conference final, which was a disappointing conclusion to a playoff run. His current isolation at a Red Deer hotel — Krebs and 45 others have been waiting out a quarantine period since two players tested positive for COVID-19 early last week — has been an exercise in frustration. It's supposed to end Sunday.
"There's some nights you're laying there before bed and you're like, 'Oh geez, I haven't really seen anything but these walls in the past what? — it's been like eight days now," said Krebs. "They're doing a great job of keeping us entertained and just making sure we stay consistent with our workouts and things like that. I think that really helps just having a schedule every day that we can follow to make the day go by."
He said spending time with Vegas in the bubble was a major growing experience. He missed his first NHL training camp while rehabbing from a partially torn Achilles tendon just prior to being drafted 17th overall by the Golden Knights in 2019. The exposure and extra work should be helpful when he heads to training camp some time in the new year.
"Our GM (Kelly McCrimmon) and our new coach (Pete DeBoer) never got to see me before so it was definitely nice to get some eyes on me and I was able to create a lot of relationships with the staff and the players," said Krebs. "I think that definitely helped a lot. But it's the NHL. It doesn't matter who you are or how good you are, it's hard to make it."
When the Knights, facing an off-season salary-cap crunch, traded 14-year veteran centre Paul Stastny to the Winnipeg Jets, it was seen as a major opportunity for prospects such as Krebs and Winnipegger Cody Glass, the club's sixth-overall pick in 2017.
In Krebs' case, he must play in the NHL this season or return to the WHL for his 19-year-old season. Glass, 21, already has 39 games of NHL experience and would be a logical candidate to fill Stastny's No. 2 centre slot.
"With the uncertainty around all levels of hockey, we'll need to take stock of what's best for Peyton," said McCrimmon. "Our organization will always be one that believes junior hockey is very important for player development and believes you need to overcook your prospects and really sees a lot of value in what a 19-year-old year means for a player.
"When you combine that with the leadership, the chance to be a dominant player, the opportunity to play in a world junior (championship), those are all really important steps along the way."
Glass, whose 2019-20 season was cut short by a serious knee injury, appears destined for a major role in Vegas.
"He made great use of the time," said McCrimmon of Glass' off-season. "He's obviously rehabbed the injury, but then it's sort of that summer he became a man. He's a big man — he's 210 pounds, he's over six-foot-two. He looks like a different person... Those are all things you project when you draft a player."
The 5-11, 189-pound Krebs is not a physically imposing presence but remains convinced he's ready to graduate NHL in 2020-21. The possibility of expanded rosters and/or taxi squads to combat the impact of positive COVID-19 tests could improve his chances.
"There's always a plan in place and I think whether that guy (like Stastny) gets traded or not, there's always 10 guys trying to take that spot so right now I just got to make sure that I keep working hard and do everything I can to fight for a spot," he said.
Krebs is also eager to show he can be used in multiple roles. Prior to the quarantine, Team Canada coaches inserted him as the right-winger on a line with centre Quinton Byfield and left-winger Sam Poulin.
The position shift was nothing to worry about because his dad Greg schooled him in various roles, including defence, during his minor hockey days while growing up in Okotoks, Alta.
"I think the more versatile any player is the more opportunities he creates for himself," said McCrimmon. "So long term, we see Peyton as a centre in our organization. I looked at his usage in the early stages of Canada's world junior camp: he's playing on the wing. And for me that only adds value."
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.