By RYAN MCCRACKEN on February 16, 2021.
After watching his older brothers work their way through the WHL system and following right behind in their footsteps, Medicine Hat Tigers defenceman Dru Krebs is set to embark on what could be his first solo chapter in the Dub.
The 17-year-old Okotoks product is entering his second season with the Tigers, and his first without a brother in the league. Krebs’ oldest brother Dakota, 21, recently wrapped up his major junior career after 308 games spent with the Calgary Hitmen and Tri-City Americans, while 20-year-old Peyton has started his season with the AHL’s Henderson Silver Knights after being selected 17th overall by Vegas in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft – leaving Krebs with the chance to cement quite a family legacy in the WHL.
“I think by this time they know I’ve learned a lot from them. I’m just coming in prepared and I have the knowledge I need to work and keep on pursuing my dream,” Krebs said in a phone call with the News. “Dakota had his own journey in five years in the WHL – I think two by himself – then Peyton had the exact opposite where he came in ready as the first overall (bantam) pick. Those two different perspectives I was able to rely upon, and I think it’s really helped me get to this point.
“They really paved a path for me to follow.”
Like every WHLer, it’s been an uncharacteristic and extended off-season for the young Tabby defenceman – but it hasn’t been without its highlights.
Back in December and early January, Krebs had the opportunity to watch Peyton compete at the IIHF World Junior Championship for Team Canada’s silver medal run. While he wasn’t able to watch Peyton play in person, his family watch parties were featured live on TSN as part of the event’s coverage.
“That was pretty funny, we had a couple TV experiences,” said Krebs. “It would have been cool to see him in person, but being able to see him play at the level, that we watched every Christmas growing up, it’s absolutely insane. Him being a huge key on that team was even crazier. It’s amazing to see how far he’s come as a player and all the things he’s doing. Pretty soon we’re going to be watching his first NHL game and that’ll be an experience and a half.”
In less than two weeks, Krebs will get his own chance to experience playing in an empty building, as the WHL will move ahead with its 24-game schedule without fans in attendance. After chatting with Peyton about the challenges that come with silent stands, Krebs says he expects players will need to adapt to a game without crowd-based momentum.
“The biggest difference, he said, was in the (gold medal game against Team U.S.A.),” said Krebs. “There was no atmosphere, where usually you’d have the crowd motivating you to push forward. If you’re starting to pick up momentum the crowd would get behind you and stuff, but that’s non-existent so it’s kind of like playing a shinny game. Everything is the same in terms of the play and stuff, but just the momentum, you have no momentum behind your home crowd. There’s very little home ice advantage in that circumstance.”
As a result, fundamentals could become all the more important in turning the tide of close contests – and Krebs says he’s been putting in the work to sharpen the finer points of his game.
“I’ve been really working on my strength and speed, all the key fundamentals to my game,” said Krebs, who had three goals, 10 assists and a plus-5 rating through 55 games last season. “I’ve been just training at my house. Working out there, then going on the outdoor rinks and trying to keep in shape for whenever this time came. Once that news came I was really excited, and I was really happy with how much work I’ve been able to put in to stay in shape this entire time.”
Maintaining that drive to stay in shape despite multiple delays to the WHL season and a pandemic restricting access to indoor training facilities came down to optimism, says Krebs. Even as the league’s start date was pushed from October, to December and then again into February, Krebs held out hope that he’d be back in orange and black before too long.
“For the most part I just kept a really optimistic mindset, that this was going to happen and we were going to play a season,” he said. “I didn’t want to be coming into the season unprepared, so I think having that mindset and the goal that something is going to happen was huge for me and my motivation to keep going to the gym and keep working hard on the ice.”
Krebs and the Tigers are scheduled to open their 24-game WHL season on Feb. 26 against the Rebels in Red Deer.