Next up in our annual prospect review and forecast series is Bear Hughes, center for the South Carolina Stingrays in the ECHL. (You can access all of our Capitals Prospect Reports and player analysis on our “Prospects” page here.)
Cassius “Bear” Hughes, a 6’ 2”, 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 on June 1, 2022, but the Hershey Bears did ink him to a one-year deal for the 2022-23 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, 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.
Chiefs’ head coach Manny Viveiros 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, he notched 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, 2022, 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.
Hughes spent the 2022-23 season with the South Carolina Stingrays in the ECHL, recording 23 goals and 36 assists in 66 regular season games and posted another goal and five assists in five playoff games.
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 2022-2023 season. You can find all of our monthly prospect reports on our “Prospects” page in the top menu.
The rookie pivot has dished out a pair of assists in three games with South Carolina. Hughes is in the ECHL to get minutes. He will likely see in action in Hershey before the season is over.
Monthly Score: 2.5
Hughes had a productive month for South Carolina. He netted seven goals and dished out five assists in 10 games with the Stingrays.
Hughes ranks third on the team in scoring with 14 points. The native of Post Falls, Idaho is averaging 1.08 points per game.
Monthly Score: 3.0
Hughes netted his third multi-goal game of the season as the South Carolina Stingrays beat the Savannah Ghost Pirates by a final score of 2-1 on December 1 at Enmarket Arena.
Hughes provided the overtime game-winner over the Greenville Swamp Rabits on December 9.
BEAR FINDS HIS HONEY 🍯 THE OT WINNER! pic.twitter.com/nNxcipvcs5
— SC Stingrays (@SCStingrays) December 10, 2022
Hughes was named to the 2023 Warrior/ECHL All-Star Classic roster. The mid-season event is hosted by the Norfolk Admirals and will take place on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023, at Norfolk Scope Arena in Norfolk, Virginia.
Congrats to Bear Hughes on being selected for the 2023 @WarriorHockey ECHL All-Star Classic! 🐻👏
Read the full release ➡️ https://t.co/uKsNL1FvL6 pic.twitter.com/db1N3EbEGG
— SC Stingrays (@SCStingrays) December 28, 2022
“I am honored and excited to be the one player representing the Stingrays,” said Hughes. “There are a lot of guys on the team that could have been picked to play in the game. We have a locker room full of teammates that are excellent people both on and off the ice.”
Hughes leads the Stingrays with 26 points and 14 assists to go along with 12 goals, second most on the team. The rookie out of Post Falls, ID ranks third among rookies in points, fourth in goals scored, and is tied for sixth in assists.
Monthly Score: 3.5
The rookie center leads South Carolina in assists with 22 and is second on the team in scoring with 28 points. He ranks second on the squad in goals with 16. Hughes amassed eight points in January.
The pivot netted South Carolina’s opening goal twice in the month, once at Orlando on January 4 and again at Savannah on January 7. He recorded a multi-point game versus Atlanta on January 6 by registering secondary assists on both Carter Turnbull’s second period power play tally and Andrew Cherniwchan’s third period goal.
Hughes added two more goals and two more helpers in the month. He plays on the first power play unit and has 10 power play points on the season. The Post Falls, Idaho native represented South Carolina at the ECHL All-Star game in Norfolk.
Monthly Score: 3.5
With the departure of Carter Turnbull for Slovakia, Hughes is the leading scorer for the Stingrays with 46 points in his rookie campaign. The Post Falls, Idaho native compiled eight points in February. Hughes dished out six assists in the month, five of those helpers came on the power play.
The pivot had the primary assist on Josh Wilkins game-winning power play goal with 1:08 left in the third period against Fort Wayne on February 22.
Hughes has a team high 13 power play assists on the season. He has also compiled a team best 28 assists. He added two goals for the month to bring his season total to 18, which leads the Stingrays.
Monthly Score: 3.0
On March 4, Hughes scored a goal during a 6-1 win against the Atlanta Gladiators. The Stingrays scored four unanswered goals in the contest.
On March 10, Hughes scored the team’s last goal in a 5-1 win against the Florida Everblades.
— SC Stingrays (@SCStingrays) March 18, 2023
On March 18, Hughes scored the team’s fifth goal in a 6-0 win against the Savannah Ghost Pirates. On March 25, Hughes scored the team’s second goal at the 6:27 mark of the second frame in a game against the Maine Mariners where they went on to win 7-3.
In the Stingrays game on March 31 where the Stingrays routed the Cincinnati Cyclones 11-0, Hughes scored a goal on a rebound from the opposing goaltender at 12:27 into the second period. This was the team’s sixth goal of the game. He also recorded an assist on the team’s eighth goal of the game which came at 7:37 in the third period.
— SC Stingrays (@SCStingrays) April 1, 2023
For the month of March, Hughes scored five goals and recorded six assists. He has 23 goals and 34 assists in 62 games played (0.92 pts/gm) for South Carolina. He currently leads the Stingrays in goals.
Monthly Score: 3.0
Hughes ended the regular season with 23 goals (tied for second on the Stingrays), was second in assists with 36, second in total points (59) and first in plus/minus (+21). He also added a goals and five assists in the Stingrays first round playoff series.
Monthly Score: 3.0
MONTHLY SCORE SUMMARY
Hughes had a very productive season at South Carolina and should be re-signed by the Capitals organization. He didn’t get a shot in Hershey this season, although the argument could be made that he deserved to get a few games. The problem in Hershey is a numbers game, where quality forwards were scratched each and every game.
The only remaining question is do the Capitals sign him to one of their 50 contracts or do the Hershey Bears lend a hand again and sign him to an AHL deal. The latter is most likely.
By Jon Sorensen
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
2022-2023 Prospect Reviews And Forecasts
Bear was injured towards the end of the season but I do not know what the injury was. He did go a bit flat after the All Star game. In fact, starting with the All Star game.
Rays used him for faceoffs a lot.
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