Screen cap: @Capitals
With the 2021-22 NHL season beginning to commence, the first wave of activity for the Washington Capitals has begun in the form of their Rookie Camp. For the past few days, draft picks and prospects of the team as well as invitee free agents have taken to the ice at MedStar Capitals Iceplex to partake in the first wave of Capitals hockey for this season.
On Sunday, 2020 fifth-round pick Bear Hughes spoke to Capitals Senior Writer Mike Vogel on the progress made in camp and his experience thus far. Hughes, who hails from Post Falls, Idaho, spoke on his first impressions of the Capitals’ camp, and new experiences, saying:
“I’ve never been to the D.C. area before, even though being an American-born citizen, I was a little nervous coming into camp, didn’t know any of the guys, never met the staff face-to-face, but just to get here, see the facility, and meet all the staff members and see what good people they are, it’s been really fun and they make it enjoyable so it’s been a good time so far”.
Hughes, who played with the Western Hockey League’s Spokane Chiefs in 2019-20, talked about seeing some of his fellow WHLers (Vincent Iorio and Dru Krebs) at the Capitals’ camp and getting to know them on a more personal level:
“I’m actually rooming with Dru Krebs, he’s a Eastern Conference guy, I’m a Western Conference guy, so they’re a team we don’t normally play once a year, but due to COVID, we’re only doing conferences, so just to meet him face-to-face and see what a good guy he is, and talk about the little differences about the way hockey is played between the different conferences…it’s been pretty interesting and everyone the Caps have brought to this camp, there are such good people, it’s easy to talk to them.”
On adjusting to new people, new protocols, and comfort level upon arrival at camp, Hughes admitted that there were some initial jitters coming into a new situation in his career, saying:
“I think the first day everyone’s a little nervous, there’s a lot more than just the practice going on, you have to come in and do your physical, and meet everybody, I think it is just a little awkward at first, there’s a little bit of tension, but moving through the day everyone becomes a little more comfortable and then obviously today everyone knows each other a little bit more and everyone’s comfortable at the rink, and I think today’s practice went pretty smooth and every day we seem to keep getting better”.
Finally, Hughes spoke to Vogel about the arch of his career, to which the 20-year old reflected, and his thoughts on the direction this season might take and what he feels he needs to improve:
“I think every little kid dreams of playing in the National Hockey League, and for me playing hockey, hockey’s not very big where I’m from in Northern Idaho, so starting out, I was just playing for fun, playing with all my friends, my dad coached the team I played for, as I got older I realized God had given me a gift for the sport, so I went to Kootenay International Hockey when I was 17-years old, that was my first time competing at a really high level, and then later that year I went and played a couple games with the Spokane Chiefs and that was a big jump for me also, but I’ve had such good coaches along the way and people who believe in me and keep pushing me, so it’s been a fun ride and can’t wait to see where it takes me…I think the biggest thing for me is I have to get bigger, stronger, and faster. One of the first things you notice coming into this camp is how strong everyone is. When you’re trying to battle in front of the net, the d-men are so strong, it’s way harder than in the Western league or any other league I’ve played in before. Obviously my goal is to eventually play for the Capitals, so this year, see how camp goes, my first time coming to camp, I really have to measure myself against everyone else here, so it’s really good for me to see.”
The Capitals’ rookie camp’s final day commences tomorrow, after which the NHL training camp will begin on September 23.
“It’s my first time coming to camp, I really got to measure myself against everyone else that is here, so it’s really good to see where I fit in.”
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) September 19, 2021
By Michael Fleetwood