Cassius “Bear” Hughes is having a strong season with Spokane of the Western Hockey League, and the prospective Washington Capitals team is looking to continue developing it in its first year as a professional.
The 21-year-old center had the team’s highest in goals (24), assists (43) and points (67) in 64 games last season, including six points (three goals, three assists) in a 6-1 win. on Tri. City on March 12th.
He was named captain in January and selected to the WHL US Division 2 All-Star Team.
“I’ve been very fortunate with all the opportunities I’ve had in Spokane,” Hughes said. “I took some responsibility, but it was also an honor for me. I had some of my teammates and teammates who were good friends and hockey players.”
Hughes was selected by the Capitals in the fifth round (#148) in the 2020 NHL Draft. In May, he signed a one-year contract with Hershey of the American Hockey League.
“Like a lot of players in his draft year, Bear has played fewer games than regular prospective players due to the COVID shortened seasons,” said Chris Patrick, Assistant General Manager for Capitals. “Given that, the best thing to develop for him is to play and get more experience now at the professional level. We will want to put him in situations where he can play good minutes and continue to develop his game against the professional players.”
A native of Post Falls, Idaho, Hughes was able to benefit from a local youth hockey program he had a strong connection to.
Hughes, who played his older brother, said, “My dad is very involved in youth hockey there. That’s how I got into it.” “Before that, there wasn’t much hockey at all in North Idaho. The program kind of rolled out and now there are two different programs from where I am.”
After scoring 47 points (16 goals, 31 assists) in 61 games for Spokane in 2019-20, Hughes scored 24 points (nine goals, 15 assists) in 35 games for Fargo of the NHL in 2020-21.
In July, Hughes participated in the Capitals development camp, which included a brawl at the Capital One Arena. He’s back in Post Falls and is looking to add some size to his 6-foot-2, 171-pound frame.
“I’ve got a decent height, but I can use 10 and 15 pounds of muscle,” Hughes said. “This summer, this has been my main goal off the ice, just work out hard and eat as much as I can, and try to gain a little weight.”
Hughes will return in the fall to Capitals training camp ready to earn a spot on the Hershey roster.
“No one on this team is for sure, you have to succeed,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you sign a contract, you still have to show up and prove that you belong there.”