Position: Center/Left Wing
2021-22 Team: Providence Bruins (AHL)
2021-22 Season: Hughes led the Bruins in assists and scoring, tallying 31 assists and 45 points, respectively, in 59 games. He didn’t play in the team’s two postseason games, and finished the regular season with a minus-7 rating.
Type of Acquisition: Signed on the opening day of free agency, July 13, 2022.
Hughes’ Pre-Kraken Career
The Edmonton, Alberta native stuck to his roots and played two seasons in the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) for the Spruce Grove Saints from 2012-2014. He demonstrated offensive growth from his first to his second year and saw two decent playoff runs, where he scored 32 goals and 88 points in 112 regular season games and added 26 points in 32 playoff games over the two years. He then traveled to the United States to play college hockey.
Hughes became a Badger, playing for the University of Wisconsin, for four years from 2014-2018. He got to learn from former NHLer and NHL coach Tony Granato, who coached the team starting in his junior year after the team struggled mightily for his first two seasons there. He showed that he was a bit more of a distributor as he scored just 23 goals but dished out 69 assists for 92 points in 139 games. Additionally, he got a taste of leadership as he was first an alternate captain, and then a captain during his senior year. The Boston Bruins drafted him 165th overall in the 2015 Draft and he turned pro following his senior season.
I’ll jump ahead just for a second; he’s played just two NHL games, one during the 2019-20 season and one during the 2020-21 season, and had no points. Most of his career has been spent in the American Hockey League (AHL), where he played 14 games after turning pro at the end of the 2017-18 season, putting up three points. Between the 2018-19 season and the 2020-21 season, he totaled 24 goals, 41 assists, and 65 points in 121 games. This past season he played pretty well, and it was his second as an alternate captain for the Bruins. As mentioned, he led the team in assists and points, and that may have been what caught the Kraken’s eye.
Hughes’ Fit With the Kraken
Given the Kraken’s current center depth, Hughes will likely fall into the AHL for a majority, if not the entire season. He saw time in all situations for the Bruins and that could help the Coachella Valley Firebirds get their inaugural season off to a good start. Similar to Kraken signee Andrew Poturalski, he could also be a valuable asset for their prospects to learn from.
Hughes’ play in all situations included production in all situations. The Kraken need help on the power play, and he threw out 18 assists and 19 points last season. Arguably, more importantly, they are in desperate need of some penalty-killing assistance and he scored four shorthanded goals on a Bruins penalty kill that finished third in the AHL at 84.5 percent. The Kraken showed life at times on special teams, but need to find some consistency in that department this season.
If Hughes got a call-up, it would most likely be in a bottom-six role. Head coach Dave Hakstol could allow him some secondary special teams time, likely on the penalty kill, but it really depends on the context surrounding his call-up. However, that ability will be a valuable asset for the Firebirds as they not only look to be competitive but help round the Kraken’s prospects into complete players.
Was Signing Hughes a Hit or a Miss?
General manager Ron Francis hit again with this signing. It’s another two-year deal, but if the 25-year-old has a good year then it could pay dividends for the team down the line. If he plays well he could also turn himself into a potential trade piece for the Kraken. He may not hold much value alone but could be a piece to a larger deal. Low-cost and high-reward is the name of the Kraken’s game this summer, and here’s another player who falls into that category.
Whether or not Hughes gets any action with the parent club, this is a signing that should pay off for the Kraken as he’ll join a Firebirds team that will boast several names ahead of him on the call-up depth chart. While it’s unlikely given that context that he’ll be starting the season in a Kraken jersey, anything could happen if he gets off to a good start and the injury bug rears its ugly head.
Sean Raggio lives for hockey. He will be covering the Seattle Kraken, and is a co-host of “What’s Kraken” for THW. Sean gained experience in writing for television, print and radio while studying journalism at Quinnipiac University and being an active member in the student media organizations there. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out on Twitter! A link can be found at the bottom of his articles, such as this one.