The Hershey Bears announced on Thursday that they have signed forward Cassius “Bear” Hughes and defenseman Benton Maass to AHL contracts. The Capitals’ rights to both players were set to expire this off-season.
While Hughes’ real name is Cassius, he’s been called “Bear” for most of his life. Once his mother called his elementary school to say that “Cassius will not be in today” and Bear asked her, “Who’s Cassius?”.
Hughes was the sixth child in a family of 10 children, including seven boys and three girls, with the last five children all being boys. His older brother, Rance, played junior hockey with the Spokane Braves and the St. Louis Bandits of the North American Hockey League (NAHL).
During the summer of 2018, Hughes accepted an invitation to the Everett Silvertips development camp and had a good camp, and was with the team until the final scrimmage. However, Hughes did not have the body of work that drafted prospects tend to have and was not on the Silvertips’ top prospect list, and thus, returned to Post Falls. He played for the Spokane Chiefs for the 2018-19 season and had 41 goals and 25 assists in 46 games.
— Spokane Chiefs (@spokanechiefs) October 10, 2021
Manny Viveiros, the Chiefs’ head coach, said he was instantly impressed by Hughes. “He’s an incredible kid. He’s very humble, kind, good sense of humor, got his feet on the ground. He knows what he wants. He kind of just fell off the tree and right into our laps, so to speak. He has nothing but impressed us.”
In 2019-20, Hughes scored 16 goals and recorded 31 assists in 61 games played, and was selected as the team’s Rookie of the Year. Prior to that, he played for the Spokane Braves of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) in 2018-19.
Hughes found action in the USHL for the 2020-21 season for the Fargo Force. For the season, Hughes had nine goals and 15 assists in 35 games played for a 0.69 points per game average. He recorded 67 shots for a 13.4% shooting efficiency.
— Spokane Chiefs (@spokanechiefs) November 25, 2021
Bear Hughes wrapped-up his final year of CHL eligibility this season with the Spokane Chiefs in the WHL. The Chiefs announced on January 20 that Hughes was named team captain for the remainder of the 2021-22 season. Hughes became the 35th captain in franchise history.
“Bear exemplifies everything we’re looking for in a leader,” said Head Coach Adam Maglio. “He has a tremendous work ethic on and off the ice, leading by example in all aspects.”
Make that 1⃣0⃣1⃣ WHL points for Bear Hughes!!!
— Spokane Chiefs (@spokanechiefs) March 13, 2022
Hughes was named to the second team all-star of the Western Hockey League’s US. Division. The Post Falls native led the team during the regular season in assists (43) and total points (67).
🐻 ON THE LOOSE!!!
— Spokane Chiefs (@spokanechiefs) December 31, 2021
Hughes reported to Hershey following the conclusion of his WHL season. More on Hughes can be found on our Prospects page here.
Maass was inserted into the UNH Wildcats starting lineup straight out of high school for the 2017-2018 season, and had been there ever since. As a “true freshman”, Maass played in all 36 games for UNH, scoring four goals, including three power play goals, and contributed 13 assists. Among all Hockey East defensemen, Maass tied for sixth in goals, third in power play goals, and eighth in assists.
Maass’ sophomore campaign did not go as well. He missed a number of games due to a scary injury, and his scoring output was down. Offensively, his shot production did increase during the 2018-2019 season.
For the 2019-2020 season, Maass led UNH with a Plus/Minus rating of plus-7. His 34 blocked shots in 32 games were second-most on the team and his 59 shots on goal were fifth on the team and second among UNH defensemen. He contributed three goals and seven assists.
Maass, who’s college eligibility was extended a year due to Covid, completed his college eligibility this season with Minnesota State. Maass scored the game-tying tally in the second period of the NCAA’s Frozen Four Semi-Final game. Minnesota State trailed the University of Minnesota, 1-0, midway through the second period when Maass gathered a loose puck in the right corner and executed a nice wrap-around for the game-tying tally.
Assists to Lucas Sowder and Ondřej Pavel pic.twitter.com/9cz0Y3ktdF
— EP Rinkside (@EPRinkside) April 8, 2022
Maass reported to Hershey following the national tittle game. It was officially announced on April 20 that he, along with Garin Bjorklund and Dru Krebs, signed amateur tryout agreements with the Bears.
More on Maass can be found on our Prospects page here.
MORE FROM THE BEARS
The Hershey Bears announced today that the club has signed forward Bear Hughes and defenseman Benton Maass to American Hockey League contracts for the 2022-23 season.
Hughes, 20, led the Western Hockey League’s Spokane Chiefs in all scoring categories this season, posting a team best in goals (24), assists (43), and points (67). He was named Spokane’s 35th captain in team history this past January, and earned U.S. Division Second All-Star Team honors.
The 6’2″, 171-pound forward posted 116 points (42g, 74a) over his 127-game WHL career. The Post Falls, Idaho native was selected by Washington in the 5th round of the 2020 NHL Draft. He signed a tryout with the Bears on May 3, but did not see any game action.
Maass, 23, was selected by the Capitals in the 6th round of the 2017 NHL Draft. After four years at the University of New Hampshire, Maass transferred to Minnesota State University for the 2021-22 season, helping the Mavericks to the NCAA Tournament title game. The 6’3″, 201-pound blue liner scored 14 points (3g, 11a) in 42 games for Minnesota State, and the native of Elk River, Minn. collected 51 points (13g, 38a) in 162 career NCAA games.
After signing a tryout with the Bears on Apr. 20, Maass made his professional debut with Hershey in the club’s regular season finale on Apr. 24 versus Syracuse, recording two shots.
By Jon Sorensen