Tom Wilson will have a disciplinary hearing at noon Thursday for his charging hit on Philadelphia center Brayden Schenn in the second period of Washington’s 5-2 loss Tuesday.
It will be a phone hearing for the Capitals’ rookie winger, which means the maximum suspension the NHL Department of Player Safety can hand down is five games. That benchmark likely takes in to account that Wilson, 19, is a first-time offender at the NHL level and that Schenn appears to have avoided significant injury on the play.
“I feel I got really lucky,” Schenn told reporters in Philadelphia Wednesday as quoted by the Courier Post, adding that Wilson texted him to apologize for the hit. “I don’t think I have ever gone head first into the boards without even getting my arms up or anything like that. I don’t remember much of the play. All I remember was how hard the top of my head actually hit the board. And I don’t remember trying to get up or anything bad. But the good thing is I don’t have a headache or any symptoms today, so that’s a positive sign.”
The Capitals were off on Wednesday but Coach Adam Oates firmly defended Wilson’s play following the contest. Oates said he believed it was a “clean hit” by Wilson, adding that “I don’t even think it’s a penalty,” and that his initial reaction was that there’s nothing he would tell the rookie to do differently on the play.
“He’s a big, strong guy. He hit him in the elbow first,” Oates said. “He went through the guy, that’s all. That’s how I see it.”
Replays show Wilson cut through the offensive zone with great speed and then accelerated with two more strides before he hit Schenn, who was carrying the puck only a few feet away from the boards. According to the official shift charts from the game, Wilson’s shift was all of five seconds long before delivering the check, indicating he came over the boards and went across the ice in short order.
Wilson made contact with Schenn’s shoulder and back to send the Flyers center hard into the boards. Schenn turned in the moment before Wilson made impact, putting himself in a more vulnerable position, but that consideration is not stipulated under charging in the NHL rulebook.
Rule 42.1 Charging states that “a player who, as a result of distance traveled, shall violently check an opponent in any manner. A ‘charge’ may be the result of a check into the boards, into the goal frame or in open ice.”
He received a five-minute major for charging on the hit as well as a game misconduct, a major penalty for fighting resulted from a fight that followed the hit. Given that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced Wilson’s hearing “for charging” Schenn, that distance traveled by Wilson and the speed at which he was pursuing the check appears to be the main point of concern. That Schenn appears to have avoided major injury on the play will also be taken into consideration by the league in determining whether to discipline Wilson.
Wilson was suspended for five games last season in the Ontario Hockey League for a hit from behind, but this is the first time he’s faced supplemental discipline during his 34-game NHL career.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie was the first to report that Wilson would have a hearing.