Over the past two months, Peyton Krebs’ dream of wearing a Kootenay Ice logo on his chest has just morphed into a part of his regular routine.
Now, he’ll be looking to make the same true of the maple leaf.
Representing Team Canada Red at the 2017 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, the 16-year-old is achieving the first step of a lifetime ambition.
“Any time you can represent your country, it’s pretty special,” Krebs said after a practice last week. “It’s pretty cliche to say, but I’ve been waiting to do [it] my whole life. It’s pretty exciting and it’s going to be a fun two weeks.”
Departing from Cranbrook for Dawson Creek, B.C. on Monday, Krebs’ will begin play on Thursday with a pre-tournament game against the United States.
The U-17 Challenge begins officially on Sunday and features eight teams, with 66 Canadians divided amongst Team Canada Red, White and Black and international opponents from Finland, the U.S., Czech Republic, Russia and Sweden also participating.
— Kootenay ICE (@WHLKootenayICE) October 31, 2017
Over the summer, Krebs was one of 111 players at Team Canada’s development camp and had three points in three exhibition games. So far with Kootenay, the young centreman has 13 points in 15 games and is second on the team in scoring.
“I think he’s getting better from facing the competition [in the WHL],” Ice head coach James Patrick said after Krebs’ most recent game. “As high as his skill level is, this is way tougher competition he’s facing now than he’s had at any time in his career.
“We go on the road and sometimes [our opponents] are playing their top defence pairing against his line, so I know [he’s] getting better [through that experience].
In addition to Krebs, there will be a couple of other Cranbrook connections on Team Red.
Former Ice head coach Luke Pierce will be an assistant coach with the squad and a familiar face that Krebs is eager to reconnect with.
“I think Luke and I developed a pretty good relationship last year [during my 15-year-old season] and it’s going to be awesome to see him on the bench again,” Krebs said. “He’s a pretty awesome guy.”
Since the Ice parted ways with Pierce in June, and brought in James Patrick, the former bench boss has taken on an assistant coach role with the Canadian national sledge hockey team, in addition to the U-17 job.
The Red defence corps will also be of interest to Kootenay fans as they are led by Cranbrook’s own Bowen Byram, who is currently in his rookie WHL season with the Vancouver Giants.
“Bowen is a great guy [and] I can’t say enough about him,” Krebs said. “He’ll be a huge part of our back end for Team Canada [Red] and I’m excited to see him. There will be some good laughs with him for sure.”
So far this season, Byram has nine points in 15 games with the Giants, the second most of any rookie defencemen and the most by a 16-year-old blueliner in the entire league.
Krebs, Byram and Team Canada Red will kick off their tournament against Finland on Sunday, play Sweden on Monday, and then face Russia on Tuesday. The quarterfinals will be played next Thursday, with the tournament finishing up after the gold medal match on Saturday.
With such a dynamic start to his WHL career, Krebs will be looked upon to play a big role for the Canadian squad and should have the composure to shine on the international stage.
When asked about his success so far in his WHL rookie season, Krebs’ answer was simple.
“I’m trying to just go in every day and work my hardest and play my game,” he said. “Obviously, I’ve had some good success here and I’ve had a lot of good linemates to help me.
“I’m just going to keep working hard and having fun.”
The Ice could play up to five games without Krebs over the next two weeks with a road trip to Regina and Brandon, and two home games against the Prince Albert Raiders and Spokane Chiefs.
While it may be strange to see Krebs out of the lineup for a little while, Cranbrook is certainly hoping that the Canadian flag can stick for their young star.