BUFFALO – Sabres center Peyton Krebs spoke confidently, explaining how once he starts scoring regularly, his game will be “lights out.”
“I think I have all the tools to be an elite – a really elite – player,” Krebs said following Monday’s practice in LECOM Harborcenter.
Since joining the Sabres two years ago, Krebs, who turns 23 on Friday, has established himself as their fourth-line pivot, showcasing a high-octane style, usually between Zemgus Girgensons and Kyle Okposo.
A checking role, of course, is still relatively new to Krebs, the 17th overall pick by the Vegas Golden Knights in 2019.
“In my role, I feel like I’m doing really well,” he said. “I’m playing both sides of the puck and I think my plus minus (plus-3) is great. Every time I’m out I make an impact on the game, and that’s all I can do.”
Still, Krebs, hasn’t impacted the score sheet much this season. Entering tonight’s contest against the Anaheim Ducks, the start of a three-game California road trip, he has registered just three goals and eight points in 44 outings.
He has struggled offensively from the get-go, enduring a 20-goal drought while mustering just one assist to start the season. He last scored Jan. 11, ending a 12-game drought.
His 41 scoring chances rank 11th on the Sabres, according to NaturalStatTrick.com. His 6.7 shooting percentage ranks last among regular forwards.
“I’m getting a lot of opportunities in my shifts,” said Krebs, who had an 11.5 shooting percentage last season while compiling nine goals and 26 points. “The ones that I get, I feel like I utilize everything I have and if I can just get that finish a bit more, I think that will elevate me, get me some more ice time.”
So far this season, Krebs has averaged 12 minutes, 37 seconds a game, down from 13 minutes, 50 seconds last year. He has skated at least 10 minutes in nine straight contests after dropping below that mark twice last month.
In difficult times, Krebs falls back on his work ethic. On a Zoom call Wednesday, Sabres coach Don Granato said the youngster has approached his development with “intensity” on and off the ice and been “very adamant about … getting himself maybe off the plateau he’s on into the next one.”
“I want to get better every day,” Krebs said. “I’m trying to push myself and the coaches to do that every single day. Whatever advice I can get from them on a daily basis to push them to know that I want to get better every day. And myself, too. I try to do everything off the ice and on the ice to do that.”
On Wednesday, Granato said he had just spoken with Krebs and the coaching staff planned to watch video with him.
“He’s a hungry, hungry guy, and usually the guys that learn more and more and more are the guys who get the minutes,” he said. “So he’s doing the right things in that area and finding a great calm, I think, in that process.”
Granato said Krebs’ biggest challenge has been finding that calm and learning to control his energy. Sometimes, for example, his high motor might result in a penalty.
“He’s gotten better and better and focused on the areas he needs to focus on,” he said. “And … I’ve actually felt really good trusting him a lot more in situations that he’s doing that, and he’s played more as a result.”
The 6-foot, 186-pound Krebs has embraced a checking role and evolved into a bit of a pest for opponents. He has shown his ability to think the game at a high level offensively. Remember his his no-look backhand pass as a rookie in 2021-22 that created winger Alex Tuch’s first goal with the Sabres?
While he hasn’t scored much this season, Krebs has displayed notable growth during his time time in Buffalo. So how can he take the next step in his career?
“Just growing and developing strength, because when he can buy himself an extra second through a battle, lanes start opening up,” Granato said Monday. “… Overall, just situational knowledge, situational awareness. As he goes through a situation, sometimes a player doesn’t realize that that’s the same situation, it’s a pattern situation that’s happened 1,000 times in your career.
“Just wait half a second here and that seam will open up or this will open up or this option will come in. I think he’s come a long ways in that situational awareness, just this year alone. I think you’ll see his confidence grow significantly with that.”