Garnet Kazuik

Garnet Kazuik

Kootenay Ice select Peyton Krebs first overall at WHL Bantam Draft

Kootenay Ice select Okotoks native Peyton Krebs with first-overall selection at 2016 WHL Bantam Draft

CALGARY — Peyton Krebs has been tabbed as the next elite-level talent for the Kootenay Ice.

The Ice selected Krebs, a 15-year-old forward, with the first-overall pick at the 27th annual WHL Bantam Draft, Thursday morning at Hotel Arts in Calgary.

“Peyton, not only is he a building block, he’s going to be a top-line forward,” said Garnet Kazuik, director of scouting for the Kootenay Ice, Thursday morning during a break following the first round of the draft. “When you’re in the search at trade deadline and trying to go for it, we don’t have to search for that now.

“His character is second to none. He comes from a phenomenal family… I can’t say enough about that and how important it will be for our leadership group down the road.”

Krebs, a native of Okotoks, Alta., stacked up 46 goals and 56 assists for 102 points in 27 games with the Rocky Mountain Raiders of the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League (AMBHL) this past season.

Sitting at home over a family breakfast with his parents and grandparents, the well-spoken Krebs was elated when he heard Kazuik call his name.

“It’s a pretty surreal feeling, it still hasn’t really settled in,” Krebs said over the phone Thursday. “I’ve still got the jitters a bit. It’s just an awesome feeling, a great day for my family and everyone that has supported me. Now the work begins and I’m very excited to get going.

“Ever since I was very young I wanted to play in the WHL. It’s one of the main suppliers to the NHL and that’s, in the end, the ultimate goal.”

Standing 5-foot-10 and weighing in at 164 pounds, Krebs is the latest first-overall selection of the Kootenay Ice since Jarret Stoll was the top pick at the 1997 WHL Bantam Draft.

Krebs idolizes Jonathan Toews, the heart-and-soul captain of the Chicago Blackhawks, and tries his best to emulate the 200-foot play of the Chicago star. That should be exciting news for Kootenay Ice fans as the club continues to rebuild.

“I’m a fast-moving, puck-moving guy who likes to put the puck in the net,” Krebs said. “I like to use my teammates and try to be a good leader on and off the ice.

“Whether it’s as a first-line or fourth-line player, every player has an impact on the team. I’ll be working my hardest and playing my game to hopefully help the team find some success.”

Krebs helped the Raiders to a silver-medal finish at the 2016 Western Canadian Bantam Championships and was both the AMBHL South Division Most Valuable Player and Outstanding Forward for 2015-16. Krebs and the Raiders also won the AMBHL championship during his rookie campaign in 2014-15.

“His offensive instincts are off the charts,” Kazuik said. “His speed is off the charts. He isn’t far off from NHL-calibre speed, in my opinion… His speed is dynamic. When you have a team full of speed, it kills other teams and opponents. It’s very tough to defend speed.”

Krebs becomes the third first-overall selection and 20th first-round pick in Kootenay Ice franchise history, following in the steps of Stoll (first overall, 1997) and defenceman Steve McCarthy (first overall, 1996). He is the highest pick since the franchise chose forward Ben Maxwell with the second-overall selection at the 2003 WHL Bantam Draft.

“I don’t want to compare [Peyton] to anybody,” Kazuik said. “I want Peyton to become Peyton Krebs. I don’t want to compare him to anyone that’s come through our organization or other organizations.

“He’s going to become his own player.”

According to Kazuik, the selection of Krebs came down to the wire, as the club debated over defenceman and Cranbrook native Bowen Byram, as well as forward Kirby Dach.

The Saskatoon Blades traded up from third overall, acquiring the second-overall pick from the Vancouver Giants in order to select Dach (Fort Saskatchewan Rangers). With the third-overall pick the Giants then selected Byram (Lethbridge Golden Hawks).

The Ice finished the 2015-16 WHL season with a record of 12-53-6-1 to place last in the league. In March, the club won the WHL Bantam Draft Lottery, retaining the first-overall selection and the opportunity to dictate the start of the draft.

Expected to be a dynamic WHL talent, Krebs isn’t eligible to join the Ice for the 2016-17 season as 15-year-old, but will likely earn a full-time opportunity when the 2017-18 campaign rolls around. He can play up to five games as a 15-year-old affiliate this coming season.

Krebs joins the Taphorn twins — Kaeden and Keenan — atop the prospect chart for the rebuilding Kootenay Ice.

Keenan was the top selection of the Ice, 34th overall during the second round of the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft, while brother Kaeden was the 47th-overall pick of the Giants in 2015, before being traded to Kootenay in exchange for a second-round pick (2016).

“We’re looking at our 2000-age group and how [Krebs] will fit into that,” Kazuik said. “There’s no denying we have the two Taphorns. That looks like a good line, but doesn’t mean it will be a line in the future. Building with that and what we’ll do in the 2001 [age group] is going to be two groups built together for the Kootenay Ice.”

Both Taphorn twins saw action in two games as affiliates during the 2015-16 season and will be eligible to join the club on a full-time basis this fall.

The Ice did not have a first-round pick in 2015, with the team’s last first-round selection coming in the form of defenceman Griffin Mendel (11th overall, 2014) who has since committed his services to the NCAA’s University of Denver.

Jared Legien, a first-round pick of the Ice (ninth overall, 2013), posted four goals and eight points in 69 games as a rookie during the 2015-16 season. Ice defenceman Troy Murray is also a former first-round pick (10th, 2012).

Krebs has an older brother with WHL bloodlines — defenceman Dakota Krebs plays for the Tri-City Americans.

Through the 2016 bantam draft, the Ice selected four forwards, four defencemen and two goaltenders.

“We always say you’ll be able to judge the draft class two years, three years time from now,” Kazuik said at the conclusion of the draft. “That will be the true indicator of how we did today. We feel good today as I’m sure 21 other teams feel good as well.

“Things went pretty much the way we planned it.

“We got some tremendous players and it’s going to be very exciting to watch them come in.”

Joining Krebs (in order of selection) are goaltender Jesse Makaj (second round, 23rd overall — North Shore Winter Club), forward Blake Allan (third round, 56th — Humboldt Broncos), defenceman Nolan Orzeck (fourth round, 67th — Calgary Northstars), defenceman Kabore Dunn (fourth round, 70th — Shawnigan Lake Bantam Prep), defenceman Jordan Chudley (fourth round, 78th — Southwest Cougars), forward Brett Wieschorster (fifth round, 89th — Sherwood Park Flyers), goaltender Carter Woodside (sixth round, 111th — Sask Valley Vipers), forward Cody Shepheard (Shawnigan Lake Bantam Prep) and defenceman Colton Kitchen (Prince George Bantam Cougars).

Kootenay Ice 2016 WHL Bantam Draft

Round 1 (1st overall) — F Peyton Krebs (Rocky Mountain Raiders)Round 2 (23rd) — G Jesse Makaj (NSWC Winterhawks)Round 3 (56th) — F Blake Allan (Humbolt Broncos)Round 4 (67th) — D Nolan Orzeck (Calgary Northstars)Round 4 (70th) — D Kabore Dunn (Shawnigan Lake Bantam Prep)Round 4 (78th) — D Jordan Chudley (Southwest Cougars)Round 5 (89th) — F Brett Wieschorster (Sherwood Park Flyers)Round 6 (111th) — G Carter Woodside (Sask Valley Vipers)Round 8 (155th) — F Cody Shepheard (Shawnigan Lake Bantam Prep)Round 9 (177th) — D Colton Kitchen (Prince George Bantam Cougars)Round 10 (199th) — Traded to Calgary Hitmen in exchange for future considerationsRound 11 — passRound 12 — pass

Notes: Son of Cranbrook native Scott Niedermayer, defenceman Jackson Niedermayer was selected 90th overall in the fifth round by the Calgary Hitmen… Former Kootenay Ice goaltender Jayden Sittler was traded along with a fifth-round pick (2016) from the Lethbridge Hurricanes to the Spokane Chiefs for a third-round pick (2016) and seventh-round pick (2016)…