Minnesota Duluth senior captain and Hermantown native Adam Krause will make his professional debut this weekend with the Wheeling Nailers of the East Coast Hockey League before joining the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League next season, if not sooner.

Krause agreed to a one-year AHL deal with the Penguins on Thursday, but will begin his pro hockey career either today or Saturday with Wheeling. Both organizations are minor-league affiliates of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins. Krause said he will take part in the NHL franchise’s camps this offseason.

“Obviously everyone wants that National Hockey League contract, but I’m extremely proud to sign an American league contract. That’s tough,” Krause said. “It’s not a tryout or anything. It’s an actual contract. I have a guaranteed paycheck for next year. It’s exciting. It’s very cool.

“It’s a good first step. I’ve always had to prove myself. I think I can earn my stripes and I think a lot of the management in Pittsburgh likes how I play and I’ll have the opportunity to earn an NHL deal next year.”

Krause, a two-time Bulldogs captain, had a career year as a senior, scoring seven goals and 10 assists on UMD’s top line despite missing eight games with a broken wrist. He finished his four years at UMD with 16 goals and 21 assists in 133 career games.

His signature game this season came after the Bulldogs had gone four games without a win, losing three times and tying once. In the consolation game of the North Star College Cup against rival Minnesota, Krause scored both UMD goals in a 2-1 win. The game-winner, which was one of two Bulldogs shots on goal in the third period, came with 2:11 remaining in the game.

At Hermantown High School, Krause captained the Hawks to the Minnesota Class A state championship game in 2010.

He also was selected as the News Tribune’s All-Area Player of the Year in 2010 and named to the Associated Press and St. Paul Pioneer Press All-State teams.

Krause said his most memorable moment playing hockey in the Twin Ports was Oct. 7 against Notre Dame to open the 2011-12 season. It was his first regular-season game as a Bulldog.

“The first time I put the (UMD) jersey on in front of the crowd, that was something really special,” he said. “I know there were some Hermantown people there and my parents so that was something that brought me back to my Hermantown days.

“I don’t think I had a very good warm-up that game. I was looking in the stands the whole time.”

The Nailers sit fourth in the ECHL North Division on the outside looking in on a playoff spot while the Penguins sit second in the AHL East Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference. Currently in a push to lock up a playoff spot, Krause said the AHL Penguins didn’t have a roster spot for him, so he was offered a spot with the Nailers so he could get a jump on his pro career.

Krause is the third member of the Bulldogs’ senior class to land a pro deal. Senior wing Justin Crandall made his professional debut with the ECHL’s Reading (Pa.) Royals on Wednesday, tallying two assists in a 5-2 win over the Florida Everblades in Estero, Fla.

Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said Wednesday during his season-ending news conference that senior defenseman Derik Johnson will be joining the Missouri Mavericks this week, possibly in time for the team’s contest today in Tulsa against the Oilers. The Mavericks have yet to announce the signing.

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