By Tyler Lowey, Times Reporter
The latest superstar to come out of the Foothills CFR Chemicals Bisons programs just picked up his first international medal.
Peyton Krebs was a key contributor in Team Canada Red’s silver medal-winning team at the World U17 Hockey Challenge that ran Nov. 5-11 in Dawson Creek and Fort St. John, B.C.
“I think as a kid, it’s something I’ve dreamed of all my life,” said Krebs when speaking about winning his first international hockey medal. “It wasn’t the colour I wanted, but I’ll take it for now and start working towards my next one.”
It wasn’t just enough to be named to the roster. Krebs was selected to captain the team where he was one of three No. 1 Canadian Hockey League draft picks. The Kootenay ICE top pick from 2016 played alongside Alexis Lafrenière, who was taken first overall by the Rimouski Océanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and Ryan Suzuki of Barrie Colts from the Ontario Hockey League as the other top picks from the CHL.
“I wasn’t involved in the naming of the captains, but it was one of those things where he had the expectations to be one of the best players and there was a certain level of responsibility that goes with that. I heard that he played really well. He’s a skilled player and he has the work ethic and motor that drives him and challenges him at this event,” said Team Canada Head Scout Brad McEwen.
“That was pretty cool. It definitely came with a lot of responsibility, but I couldn’t have asked for a better group to captain,” said Krebs.
Canada Red got off to a slow start, but heated up when it mattered most.
Red opened the tournament with a 4-2 loss to Team Finland Nov. 5 at the North Peace Arena in Fort St. John.
Canada trailed 2-1 with six minutes left on the clock in the second, when Krebs had the puck in the corner. He staved off a hit from Finnish defenceman Ville Heinola in the corner and got the puck up top to Colton Kammerer. Krebs immediately called for the puck back and used Heinola as a screen at the top of the left circle, as he wired a shot past Kari Piiroinen blocker side.
The following day Krebs was held off the score sheet as Canada Red thumped the defending champions Team Sweden 7-2 at North Peace Arena.
For Canada Red, it marked the squad’s first medal at the tournament. Canada, which now enters three teams — Black, White and Red — used to be split up into territories, having only made the switch three years ago. The tournament first began in 1986, as Quebec downed the Soviet Union in the gold medal game.
“He was going up against the top 2001-born players in the world and he responded very well. He is a good player and somebody we are going to have to keep our eyes on moving forward in our program,” said McEwen.
Playing their final round robin game, Canada Red was clipped by Team Russia 5-3. Despite the 1-0-2-0 record, Canada Red still managed to advance to the quarterfinals, where they would meet Canada Black.
“When we played Russia, it turned into a pretty heated battle. The fans really got into it and were going nuts. It was an awesome experience to have an entire crowd cheering you on as a member of Team Canada,” said Krebs.
Krebs was instrumental in the 4-3 victory Nov. 9 at the Encana Events Centre in Dawson Creek, as he assisted on all four goals by the Red team. He wasn’t just turning heads in the stands and the press boxes, he was turning the heads of players on his own bench.
“Coming in, I never thought I would like him as a person for all the times he has slashed through our teams. Once I got to know him, I realized how great of a person he really was. Then on the ice, the way he controls the puck and makes plays is phenomenal. It was a great decision for him to be chosen as our captain,” said Krebs’ Canada Red teammate Jackson van de Leest.
Canada Red met the Czech Republic in the semis. Canada advanced to the finals following their 3-2 shaving of the Czech’s, where they ran into a powerhouse American team.
The Americans led the tournament in goals for (34), allowed the second fewest (15) and carried the best goal differential (plus-19) in six games.
In their semifinal, they blasted Canada White 9-1 before their tilt with Krebs and Canada Red.
The Americans proved to be too much to handle, as they jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first period during the gold medal game Nov. 11 at the Encana Events Centre.
With the final being streamed on TSN.ca, Krebs made his presence felt in the attempted comeback. In the second period, he set up a Bowen Byram point shot on the power play, for his fifth assist of the tourney. His five assists gave him the fifth most assists of the tourney.
The Hockey Challenge was the first step for all the players on the international stage. The next big tournament for the future NHL prospects will be the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament takes place in Europe and is designed for U18 players. It is used as the top tournament for NHL Entry Draft prospects and prospects for the U20 World Junior Team.
“It was a pretty humbling experience, getting to play against the best kids from around the world that are as old as me. Whenever you play against the best, it motivates you to work harder to get to their level. I definitely came back to Cranbrook and want to work harder to continue to elevate my game,” said Krebs.
Krebs took a brief leave from the ICE to participate in the tournament. The 16-year-old is thriving in his first season in the Western Hockey League. Through 15 games he sits third on the team with three goals and 13 points. Last year, Krebs took centre stage with the Bisons of the Alberta Midget Hockey League, as his 15 goals and 40 points in 29 games earned him the award of the league’s Top Forward.