Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson will have his appeal hearing with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on Thursday in New York, according to the NHL Players' Association. Wilson is serving a 20-game suspension from the league’s Department of Player Safety for an illegal check to the head of St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist.

The NHL Players' Association filed for an appeal on Wilson’s behalf last Friday, and Bettman’s ruling won’t necessarily signal the end of the process. If Bettman does not lift the ban, Wilson can choose to appeal to a neutral arbitrator, and players have had more success with that route. Nashville forward Austin Watson recently had his 27-game ban for domestic abuse reduced to 18 games by Shyam Das, the same arbitrator who would rule on Wilson’s case if it gets that far.

In 2016, Dennis Wideman was suspended 20 games for abuse of an official, and a neutral arbitrator then reduced the ban to 10 games. The process took a month and a half, and Wideman had already served 19 games.

Wilson’s appeal probably will focus on the length of the suspension rather than the legality of his hit on Sundqvist. The Department of Player Safety described Wilson’s fourth suspension in 105 games, including preseason and playoffs, as “an unprecedented frequency of suspensions in the history of the Department of Player Safety,” which is what led to the harsh ruling. Based on the $5.17 million average annual value of Wilson’s contract, he is forfeiting $1.26 million as part of the suspension. The money goes to the players’ emergency assistance fund. If an appeal is successful, he could get some of that money back.

While Wilson remains out of the lineup, the Capitals are still figuring out who should replace him on the top line beside center Evgeny Kuznetsov and captain Alex Ovechkin. Wilson had a career-high 14 goals and 21 assists there last season, and through the first four games, Coach Todd Reirden has tried right wing Brett Connolly there. Against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night, speedy winger Chandler Stephenson will be in that spot.

“Just the depth of their four lines and the way that they play, I think this lines up better for our four lines matchup-wise for us, and also just looking for someone with a little bit different type of skill-set than Brett has,” Reirden said. “So, now Chandler can get in there on the forecheck and disrupt. They’re a team that you have to force to play defense and make sure you have a really good forecheck if you’re going to shut them down.”

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