The key piece of the Eichel trade is already beginning to blossom right before our eyes.
In recent days, the Buffalo Sabres and their fans have gotten a quick glimpse into the potential future.
It all started with a beautiful pass from Peyton Krebs to Alex Tuch, which led to Tuch’s first goal as a member of the Buffalo Sabres.
Looking at this goal, it is easy to wonder – how did we get here?
It all starts with the Krebs family hockey pedigree.
Peyton’s older brother Dakota played 308 games in the Western Hockey League before heading to the University of Calgary, where he currently plays. Peyton’s younger brother Dru has played over 100 games in the Western Hockey League and currently plays with the Medicine Hat Tigers.
Peyton’s sister Maddison is also a talent, as her country music career continues to grow.
Heading into the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, Peyton Krebs draft stock was sky-high. Krebs faced little resistance during his time in the Western Hockey League prior to being drafted, putting up 68 points (19 goals, 49 assists) in the season prior to being drafted.
A few weeks prior to the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, panic set in when it was reported that Krebs had torn his Achilles tendon while training.
Krebs, ranked 10th in NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters prior to the Draft, fell down the draft board to 17th overall, where he was ultimately selected by the Vegas Golden Knights.
Krebs recovery from his torn Achilles tendon limited him to just 38 games the following season but his game could not be held down. In those aforementioned 38 games, Krebs put up an impressive 60 points (12 goals, 48 assists).
With each passing game in the WHL, Krebs continued to climb up the Golden Knights prospect ranks.
The ongoing global pandemic delayed the start of the 2020-21 Western Hockey League season long enough that Krebs first took the ice at the 2021 World Junior Championship, winning a Silver Medal after losing to the United States in the Final.
Krebs finished tied with Capitals forward Connor McMichael for second on Team Canada with 8 points scored. Only Sabres center Dylan Cozens scored more for Canada, amassing 16 points in 7 games.
Before hockey fans knew it, Krebs ultimately became one of Vegas’ top prospects and their fans could not wait to see what he could bring to the next level.
With the WHL season still on hold, Krebs made his professional hockey debut with the Henderson Silver Knights in the American Hockey League.
In 5 games with the Silver Knights, Krebs picked up where he left off, tallying five points (one goal, four assists).
Shortly thereafter, the WHL season was reinstated and Krebs returned to the Winnipeg Ice, where his stellar play simply continued.
In 24 games last season, Krebs put together 43 points (13 goals, 30 assists). It was clear that Krebs was ready for the next level.
On May 3, 2021, less than a week after the end of the WHL season, Krebs was in Las Vegas set to make his NHL debut.
Krebs played only 9:05 in his first NHL game against the Minnesota Wild but found himself getting on the scoresheet with an assist.
When all seemed like it was trending positively, Krebs season came to a screeching halt just a few days later.
On May 8, 2021, Krebs took a puck off the face against the St. Louis Blues and suffered a fractured jaw, which ultimately ended his season.
After recovering from his jaw injury over the summer, Krebs broke camp with the Golden Knights and expectations were sky-high for the franchise’s top prospect.
Out of the gate, Krebs was averaging 13:20 time on ice but did not record a point in two games with the Golden Knights.
Looking to get Krebs more consistent ice-time while there was a break in the Golden Knights’ schedule, Krebs was sent to the AHL for a two-game swing. If you can believe it, Krebs recorded five assists in those two games.
After returning to the Golden Knights, Krebs would play in seven more games, averaging 13:51 time on ice. Despite not yet recording a point with the Golden Knights, spirits were still high surrounding Krebs development.
All while this was taking place with the Vegas Golden Knights, talks had turned from whispers to rumblings.
Buffalo was going toe-to-toe with their star forward Jack Eichel. At this point, the story is old hat. Eichel had suffered a herniated disk in his neck. Eichel and his doctors wanted a specific type of artificial disk replacement, where the Sabres and their doctors wanted Eichel to have an anterior cervical discectomy.
The back-and-forth through the media was exhausting. Are all the conflicting rumors that we are hearing actually true?
Hindsight being 20/20, it was borderline comical how passive aggressive each side got. When an individual’s personal health and well being comes into play, talks can clearly get ugly.
Buffalo did not want to budge on their ask for Eichel. Despite surgery hanging over Eichel like a dark cloud, it was clear that Sabres General Manager Kevyn Adams knew that he had a top asset in Eichel. Adams repeatedly reiterated that he needed to hold steady to make sure the franchise received a proper return for their top star.
In walks Vegas Golden Knights General Manager Kelly McCrimmon.
It had been reported for some time that Vegas was likely the top trade destination for Eichel but trade talks had been held up.
The powder keg erupted on November 3, thanks in part to ESPN’s Kevin Weekes, who reported in a since deleted tweet, “For all asking, my understanding is the @NHLFlames have Tkachuk (who is a future potential captain) an upcoming 1 Rd pick, a former 1st Rd pick, and 2 prospects in the Eichel sweepstakes with the @BuffaloSabres.”
While that was almost immediately debunked, it appeared that this was simply another one of those chess moves that the NHL absolutely loves to make.
Many believed that Weekes might have obtained his information directly from Kevyn Adams, both of whom played together. This sentiment was ultimately confirmed by Sportnet’s Elliotte Friedman on his 32 Thoughts podcast, “It’s pretty obvious the Flames are blaming Adams for this because him and Kevin Weekes used to play together.”
Whatever the ultimate case might be, it quickly became irrelevant.
A mere 24 hours later, the Buffalo Sabres and Vegas Golden Knights agreed to swap assets.
For Vegas, it was all about Eichel. They got the top-line center that they had arguably been missing this whole time, along with a 2023 third-round pick.
For Buffalo, it was all about collecting talent. They acquired forward Alex Tuch, a top-10 protected 2022 first-round pick, a 2023 second-round pick and highly touted forward prospect Peyton Krebs.
Throughout the entire process of trading Eichel, Kevyn Adams simply refused to compromise on the future of the Buffalo Sabres.
While the page could be turned on the Eichel saga, a new chapter was able to begin with the acquisition of Tuch, Krebs and future picks.
Krebs would begin his tenure in the Sabres organization with the Rochester Americans. In what should come as no surprise, Krebs hit the ground running. In 16 games with the Americans, Krebs tallied 14 points (four goals, 10 assists).
In the midst of a Covid-related roster crunch, the Sabres pulled the trigger and recalled Krebs on December 28 for the first time.
In three games, Krebs has recorded one assist, averaging 16:11 time on ice, all while dazzling Buffalo hockey fans.
Aside from Eichel and former Sabres forward Sam Reinhart, it has been quite some time since Sabres fans can say they saw a player with the level of talent that Krebs possesses.
Prior to being drafted, ISS Hockey said Krebs “plays with determination and passion, (is an) exciting player and (the) puck follows him on the ice.” EP Rinkside had Krebs marked as a player who “gives his all on a shift-to-shift basis, in all three zones, no matter the score or the circumstance”.
The scouts appear to have been close to being spot-on with projections of the young forward.
With all his accrued time in the WHL and the AHL taken into consideration, Krebs is clearly setup to succeed in the NHL with the Buffalo Sabres.
Only time will tell how quickly Krebs becomes the projected top forward that helps lead the Sabres out of the league’s perennial basement and to the next level but everything appears to be on-track for Peyton Krebs.