RALEIGH – Tom Wilson will be in the Capitals’ lineup Friday after Brendan Shanahan, the NHL’s vice president of player safety, determined that the rookie’s check Tuesday on Flyers center Brayden Schenn didn’t warrant any additional discipline.
Wilson, 19, met with reporters for the first time since delivering that check Friday morning following the Capitals’ morning skate in Carolina and said while he’s glad to have avoided a suspension he knows he didn’t go without any punishment.
“It’s good. I think I made a clean check,” Wilson said. “It’s not like I wasn’t penalized. It was a 2-2 game and I cost the team the game. That was a pretty big penalty for me — the five-minute major, that really lost us the game. It’s not like I didn’t get any games. I kind of look at that game as one, I put the team down a man for five minutes and it cost us.”
The gritty winger said Shanahan walked him through the play and broke it down with him in a similar fashion to the explanation video that was released by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety. Wilson understands why there was so much attention on the hit, but said that he was well aware of his positioning and was trying to ensure he delivered a body check against Schenn, and that he didn’t catch his opponent up high.
“That’s just part of the game; that’s a big topic in today’s game, is hits like that. I think we want to keep the hard hitting in the game but the right way,” Wilson said. “I just tried to focus when I was coming in and decided that I was going to hit him I tried to keep my shoulder down and [make the hit] shoulder on shoulder. Just tried to do everything I could to make it a clean body check.”
Oates staunchly defended Wilson’s hit and was glad to see that the rookie wouldn’t received mixed messages on how to play. The Capitals obviously want Wilson to play with speed and physicality, making checks like the one he did against Schenn but if he had been suspended it would be hard to reconcile those instructions with the league’s view of the hit.
“That’s a real slippery slope and I know Shanny talked to him about that yesterday,” Oates said. “Being a physical guy, it’s part of your game, there’s going to be moments where there’s some hits that people have got their radar on you. He had a hit earlier in the year that Shanny said he watched. I’m glad they made the right call, you don’t want a guy to start second guessing his game.”