North of The Border: Unconventional Path To The WHL
Updated: Feb 13
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Bear Hughes has become a rookie to watch this year playing for the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League (WHL). The 6'0", 170 pound Post Falls, Idaho native has taken a very unconventional path to one of the premier junior leagues in the world.
Playing house league hockey until the age of 16, he suited up for the Coeur d'Alene Hockey Academy during the 2017-18 season, it seemed that his odds of playing at the major junior level were stacked heavily against him. That all changed when he played for the Spokane Braves of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) in 2018-19. The KIJHL is a Junior "B" league based out of British Columbia Canada with Spokane being the lone American franchise. Hughes put up massive numbers as a rookie tallying 41-25-66 in 46 games with the Braves last season, putting him fourth in overall scoring and first in rookie scoring. These numbers earned Hughes KIJHL Rookie of the Year honors, it also earned him a look from the Spokane Chiefs. In November of last season the Chiefs claimed the playing rights to Hughes; in January of that year he made his WHL debut, a two goal performance against the Try City Americans.
Fast forward to this season, Hughes has established himself as a legitimate 2nd line forward in the WHL. Currently sitting 6th in team scoring with NHL draft picks such as Ty Smith and WHL scoring leader Adam Beckman in the lineup, Hughes has come a long way from playing non-competitive hockey just 3 seasons ago. The NHL has taken notice as well Hughes currently sits as a "C" ranked prospect (4th-6th round) on the NHL Central Scouting list.
Bear Hughes' story shows us there is really no "right" way to go about hockey development. There are many paths you can take to achieve your ultimate goal. We wish him the best in his continued development and hope his name is called this June at the NHL draft.