Bear Hughes: 2022 Annual Review And Forecast


Next up in our annual prospect review and forecast series is Bear Hughes, center for the Hershey Bears in the AHL. (You can access all of our Capitals Prospect Reports and player analysis on our “Prospects” page here.)

VITALS

Cassius “Bear” Hughes, a 6’-1”, 165 lb. center, was drafted by the Capitals in the fifth round (#148 overall) of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. Hughes, 21, was not signed by the Capitals prior to their rights expiring for him (June 1, 2022), but the Hershey Bears did ink him to a one-year deal for the 2022-23 season.

CAREER SUMMARY

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, played well, 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 home to Post Falls, Idaho.

Hughes played for the Spokane Braves in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) for the 2018-19 season, recording 41 goals and 25 assists in 46 games. His production in the KIJHL allowed him to play for the Spokane Chiefs in the Western Hockey League (WHL) where he scored two goals in two games.

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, before the pandemic shutdown hockey for the season.

Hughes found action in the USHL for the 2020-21 season playing 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.

Hughes attended Capitals’ prospect camp at the end of September, 2021  and participated in the Capitals main training camp before returning to the Spokane Chiefs on September 28.

The 2021-22 campaign was a streaky one for Hughes, although he did amass a decent point total, with 24 goals and 43 assists (67 points) in 64 games played, which ranked him 38th in total points in the WHL. The Chiefs announced on January 20 that Hughes was named team captain for the remainder of the 2021-22 season, becoming 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.”

With the Capitals rights to Hughes set to expire on June 1, Hughes was brought in to Hershey for a closer look by Capitals brass, as soon as his season ended with Spokane. The Capitals decided not to sign Hughes, but the Bears did sign him to a one year deal for the 2022-23 season.

2021-2022 MONTH-BY-MONTH RECAP AND TREND ANALYSIS

The following is a compilation of our month-by-month prospect reports for Bear Hughes during the 2021-2022 season. You can find all of our monthly prospect reports on our “Prospects” page in the top menu.

OCTOBER
Hughes attended Capitals’ prospect camp at the end of September and participated in the Capitals main training camp before returning to the Spokane Chiefs on September 28. He scored his first goal of the season on a 5-on-3 penalty kill on October 8.

Hughes would end the game with a goal and two assists, giving him four points in his first four games of the season. Hughes scored two more goals the following night. His first came on a nice breakaway rush early in the second period against the Tri-City Americans.

His second goal would come on the power play, giving the Chiefs an early 2-1 lead. He would also add an assist on the Chiefs final goal of the game.

Hughes returned to the scoresheet on the 15th with the game’s first goal against the Tri-City Americans.

Hughes saw somewhat consistent time on the penalty kill during the start of the Chiefs season, but was injured at the end of the month (undisclosed) and missed games on the 29th and 30th. For the month of October, Hughes had four goals and five assists in eight games played and was a -4.  Two of his goals were on the power play and one was a short handed goal. He took 19 shots for a 21.1% shooting percentage.

TRENDING: UP

NOVEMBER
Hughes also missed games at the beginning of the month (11/5, 11/6) due to injury. The next game between the Everett Silvertips and Spokane Chiefs on the 10th was postponed as a result of two positive tests for COVID-19 with players on the active roster of the Chiefs. As a result, the Chiefs would lay idol for 13 days and three games in the middle of the month.

The Chiefs and Hughes would return to the ice on November 19 against the Seattle Thunderbirds. Hughes would immediately return to the scoresheet on November 24.

“It was a quick transition. I got the puck and put it in an area where the defender went right between me and the puck,” Hughes said. “It worked out for me because he hesitated and I was able to go around him for a breakaway. The whole time I knew I was going to shoot it and I wasn’t going to try and dangle.” The Chiefs won 2-1 and snapped a six-game losing streak.

Hughes would get back on the scoresheet on November 26 with a power play goal in the first period against Kelowna Rockets.

Hughes would return to the scoresheet on November 30 with a goal and two assists against Victoria. For the month, Hughes had seven goals and nine assists in 14 games played. He shot the puck 35 times for a 20% shooting percentage.

Although two years older than Haakon Hanelt, Hughes could be another diamond in the rough. We watched five of his games in November and he’s looked solid, both at even-strength and on the power play. The question now is will he be ready to suit up for the Hershey Bears in September?

TRENDING: UP

DECEMBER
Hughes had a pair of assists and was the second star of the game on December 4 against Seattle. He had three assists in a 7-3 loss to the Portland Winterhawks on December 11, giving him seven assists, but no goals in the first six games of the month.

Hughes spoke about the make of the Chiefs team this season. “It’s a new group,” said Hughes, an assistant captain and the team’s leading scorer with 23 points in 19 games. “I think only five or six guys are left from that team two years ago,” Hughes added.

“Obviously we’ve had injuries, and the start of the year hasn’t been what we wanted it to be in the standings, but we have a really good group of guys, and it’s a great opportunity for everybody in the locker room. It moves guys into the lineup who might not usually be in the lineup,” said Hughes.

“Our team is made up of a majority of younger guys, and the guys here last spring played at most 21 games,” Hughes said. “That’s just not a lot of time to develop. A lot of those guys are still new to the league, even if they were here last year. In reality, we only have a few veteran guys, and I think that plays to our disadvantage a little bit.”

Hughes scored his eighth goal of the season on December 28 against the Seattle Thunderbirds.

Hughes would add a second goal in the game. He also had an assist in the contest.

Hughes continued his scoring in the next game, also against the Seattle Thunderbirds on December 30.

Hughes had three goals and nine assists in 11 games played in December, but looked to be heating up towards the end of the month. He had 10 goals and 18 assists in 25 games played so far this season. He shot the puck 59 times for a 16.9% shooting percentage so far this season.

TRENDING: SAME

JANUARY
A relatively quiet month for Hughes, compared to previous months, but still a good month. His first goal came on January 14.

Hughes’ second and final goal of the month came on January 23.

Hughes recorded two goals and four assists in nine games played in January. For the season, Hughes had 12 goals and 23 assists in 34 games played for Spokane. He shot the puck 77 times for a 15.6% shooting percentage.

TRENDING: SAME

FEBRUARY
The Spokane 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 and replaced Jack Finley, who was traded to Winnipeg earlier this season.

“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.” Hughes first goal of the month came on February 2 against the Prince George Cougars.

Hughes changed numbers from #9 to #8 on February 4th when the Chiefs retired Tyler Johnson’s number. Captain Hughes would score the Chiefs only goal in a 4-1 loss to the Kelowna Rockets.

The Spokane Chiefs fired head coach Adam Maglio on February 10. As of February 10, the team had a 12-26-4 record, the second-worst record in the league and were in last place in the WHL’s Western Conference. Associate Coach Ryan Smith took over as interim head coach for the remainder of the 2021-22 season.

“We feel like a change is needed for our group,” Chiefs President Mark Miles said. “The season hasn’t progressed like we hoped it would. We still have a lot of games remaining and we want to put our team in a position to develop both as a unit and individually. We look forward to Ryan and Dustin leading that charge. We appreciate the time and effort Adam put into the organization.”

Hughes went dry for most of the remainder of February. He would finally score again on February 26. He would also add an empty net goal at the end of the game and was named the first star of the game.

Hughes end-of-the-month surge continued the following night with a goal in the second period against Tri-City.

He would score his fourth goal and fifth point of the weekend later in the game. For the month of February Hughes recorded six goals and three assists in 13 games. For the season, Hughes had 18 goals and 26 assists in 46 games played (0.96 points per game). He shot the puck 115 times for a 15.6% shooting percentage.

Hughes, 20, is finishing up his third season in the WHL. He will then most likely make the jump to the AHL (Hershey) this fall. It’s also conceivable (if the Chiefs postseason ends quickly) he could report for a familiarity stint with the Bears this spring, although Hughes is still unsigned by the Capitals.

TRENDING: SAME

MARCH
Hughes was dropped down to center the third line on March 4. It was the first time all season he hadn’t started centering the top two lines. He would record three assists in the game and be named the game’s first star. However, a minor goal drought ensued for Hughes. He had a goal and six assists in the first six games of the month of March.

Hughes returned to center the second line on March 12 against Tri-City, and the move paid immediate dividends for the Chiefs as Hughes recorded his first career WHL hat trick. Hughes first goal of the game came less than one minute into the second period with the Chiefs leading the Americans, 1-0.

Hughes final two goals came in the third period against the Americans. His first goal of the period and second goal of the game came with 12:31 remaining in the period.

Hughes would complete his first career WHL hat trick with 9:42 remaining in regulation. The 6’-2” centerman would cleanup the loose change in front of the goal to stretch the Chiefs lead to 6-1.

Hughes also had three assists in the game for his first career six-point game. He was interviewed after the game.

Hughes provided a little glimpse of his grit on March 20 when he dropped the gloves with Dylan Anderson.

For the month of March, Hughes had four goals and nine assists in 11 games played. For the season Hughes had 22 goals and 36 assists in 57 games played for a 1.01 points per game average. He’s shot the puck 159 times for a 13.8% shooting percentage.

Hughes is another prospect who has reached his developmental potential in the CHL, and will be a welcomed addition in Hershey this fall.

TRENDING: SAME

APRIL
A 2020 fifth-round draft pick of the Washington Capitals, Hughes has yet to sign a professional deal. If that doesn’t happen by June 1, the Capitals relinquish his rights and Hughes will become a free agent.

“We’ll see what happens with next year,” said Hughes in an interview with The Spokesman. Obviously, I want to sign a pro contract. And for my career, everything’s kind of happened in a good way that’s beneficial to me and my family. If Hershey offers me a contract, yeah, I’m going to sign it. But if they don’t, then I’ll take it as a sign from God, that maybe that’s not for me.”

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).

He notched his first career hat trick and tallied his 100th WHL point on the same night on March 12 against the Tri-City Americans for a career-best six points (3G-3A). He finished the regular season with 24 goals in 64 games – the most in his three full seasons with the Chiefs.

Over his 127-game WHL career, the 20-year-old racked up 116 points on 42 goals and 74 assists. As for the postseason, Hughes and the Chiefs were swept by Kamloops in the first round. The loss ended the career of Chiefs overager Hughes.

“The best part of this year for me was just being able to be with the guys,” Hughes said. “We had a really good group of guys. You make some pretty strong friendships.” His head coach appreciated Hughes’ game and his leadership.

“I have a lot of respect for Bear and his 200-foot game,” Smith said. “He plays hard, he plays with an edge and he’s got some skill. He’s got a bright future. He led by example and took some young guys under his wing, and that bodes well for the Chiefs in the future.”

TRENDING: SAME

PLAYER FORECAST

The assignment for Hughes for 2022-23 season is simple and straightforward. Because he is on an AHL contract there is no chance of a callup to Washington, which will lessen the distractions for him. He needs to spend the season learning the AHL game and by the spring, hopefully he can prove he is worthy of another deal with the Bears for the 2023-24 season, or possibly a deal from Washington.

By Jon Sorensen

Further Reading
Bear Hughes Took Unusual Path to Success in Western Hockey League
Capitals Draft Bear Hughes
Elite Prospects Profile of Bear Hughes
Spokane Chiefs Select Bear Hughes as Rookie of the Year

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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5 Responses to Bear Hughes: 2022 Annual Review And Forecast

  1. Anonymous says:

    Good to see Bear make the jump. He needs to prove it. Wouldn’t be surprised if he started in SC.

  2. steven says:

    Ok so he signed with Hershey but is not signed with the Capitals. So that means what, he is free to develop in Hershey but go anywhere?

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      Technically, yes. But reading between the lines, the Capitals are on the short side of the 50-max contracts, so one could assume this was possibly a side deal, with an agreement/preference for the Caps should he develop well this season (sign a deal with Caps next season).

  3. DWGie26 says:

    I think that is right Jon. Hershey would own his rights for all of next year unless Hershey loans him (to SC – likely not internationally). But I also believe he will be a UFA the following year and can sign with anyone (NHL/AHL). But yes, probably a verbal agreement that he’ll get the opportunity with Caps organization on a two-way contract if he performs.

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