After three seasons with the Vernon Vipers, Kevin Kraus is headed home to the U.S.
The Garden Grove, Calif. product, who captained the Vernon Vipers to their second straight RBC Cup national junior A hockey title in May, has signed a pro contract with the Texas Brahmas of the Central Hockey League.
Kraus, who turns 21 in September, has spent the months following the national championship win mulling over his options. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound blueliner would have loved a shot at playing European pro hockey, but admits he would have been a long shot to earn a contract.
“It’s hard for us to come out of junior A without making a name for yourself first. There are guys from the Dub (WHL) that have a hard time getting over there,” said Kraus, who posted 50 points and 168 penalty minutes in 129 career games with the Snakes.
As Vipers’ head coach Mark Ferner points out, playing in the CHL is far better than not playing at all.
“It’s not so much where you’re playing, it’s continuing to play. It’s keeping your foot in the door,” said Ferner, who Kraus credits for helping him earn a shot with the Brahmas.
“I’m just happy for Kevin. He kind of bounced around for a bit (in the WHL), but he found a home here.
“He’s not going to be that offensive guy, but when it came down to it, he was a guy that we leaned on and he was a big part of why we won (the RBC).
“We’ve got a couple players in that situation,” added Ferner, referring to Viper veterans Robbie Short and netminder Graeme Gordon.
Kraus, who is currently staying with his family near Everett, Wash., plans on coming back to Vernon to help Ferner with his hockey camps, and getting in some ice time with the Vipers before heading to Texas in late September.
“It’s nice to be home with the family, but I do miss Vernon and I do miss Canada,” said Kraus, whose parents used to live in Texas.
“They said I’ll love it. I’m excited for a new opportunity.”
Kraus has yet to met his new head coach (Dan Wildfong), but says he got a good vibe from talking with him on the phone.
“We talked and I got pretty comfortable with him and felt it was going to be a good fit. They haven’t seen me play, but in that league it’s a lot of word of mouth.
“I’m more of a steady, stay-at-home, physical defenceman, but I’m capable of adding some offence too. I’m going in there pretty confident having had two good years with the Vipers.”
And if Kraus has any questions, he can get some sound advice from older brother, Tim, who plays in the East Coast Hockey League with California-based Ontario Reign.
The CHL is a 15-team league ranging from Arizona to Mississippi in nine states. Seven of those teams are in Texas.
The Brahmas won the CHL championship for the first time in 2009. They finished mid-pack in the 2009-10 season, going 32-25-7.