Trevor Bruess

Trevor Bruess said he’s always played hockey with the goal of getting to a higher level.

Now he’s almost at the top.

The Minnesota State junior turned pro Friday, agreeing to a two-year contract with the National Hockey League’s Washington Capitals.

“Every decision I’ve made, I’ve made to get to the next step,” Bruess said.

The contract will begin next season. On Monday, Bruess will join the Capitals’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Hershey Bears, in Pennsylvania after signing an amateur tryout contract for the remainder of this season.

Bruess said several NHL teams showed an interest in him after the Mavericks’ season ended a week ago, but he believes Washington gives him the best chance of making it to the NHL.

“It’s been a week of making decisions, trying to find the best place to play,” Bruess said. “Washington was just the best fit for me. They were the most aggressive. ... They were looking for a hard-working, skating center who plays my style of hockey.”

Bruess, a 6-foot-0, 200-pound forward had 12 goals and five assists this season and led the Mavericks with 117 penalty minutes. His penalties got him in trouble, however, as the Western Collegiate Hockey Association suspended him twice over the season’s last seven games for rough play.

Over his three-year career, Bruess compiled 273 penalty minutes, putting him third on MSU’s all-time list. He also led the Mavericks in scoring as a sophomore.

Bruess is the fifth underclassman in four seasons to leave Minnesota State for the NHL, joining Jon Kalinski, Steve Wagner, Ryan Carter and David Backes.

Like Wagner and Carter, Bruess was an undrafted free agent.

According to the press release announcing Bruess’ signing, the Capitals said they have had had five former college free agents contribute this season.

Bruess was considered a flight risk all season after getting some interest from NHL teams a year ago, but, he said, it will be tough to leave.

“I’m really close to the guys on this team,” he said. “They’re like my family. ... There are a lot of things we accomplished together.”

Meanwhile, Minnesota State’s captain, Mick Berge signed with another Capitals affiliate, the South Carolina Stingrays of the East Coast Hockey League Friday.

The move will reunite Berge with former Mavericks teammate Travis Morin, who leads the Stingrays and is third in the ECHL in scoring.

Berge, who completed his senior season with the Mavericks on Saturday, finished his collegiate career with 42 goals and 85 points in 135 games. This season, he scored 31 points, tying defenseman Kurt Davis atop the team’s scoring list.

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