Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson has been suspended for two games by the NHL Department of Player Safety for a body check on St. Louis Blues forward Robert Thomas that occurred Friday. It’s the first suspension handed out to a player this preseason.
Wilson, a former first-round pick known for his physical play, hit Thomas away from the puck in the neutral zone more than a second after he had lost possession. That’s an interference penalty, and Player Safety also deemed it worthy of a suspension.
It’s the first suspension given by the department since former NHL enforcer George Parros took over as its head for Stephane Quintel.
In a video explaining the decision to suspend, a Player Safety official said Wilson initiated contact long after the window of when it’s acceptable. The puck had strayed away from Thomas for over a second and bounced off the boards when Wilson moved in to make the hit, which left the Blues forward lying on the ground.
“Wilson tracks Thomas for some time, and also changes his course to where he is able to finish this hit,” the official said. “Then, with the puck long gone from Thomas’ control, Wilson finishes the check with force, knocking Thomas to the ice.”
The Department of Player Safety noted that Wilson has never been suspended before, which was a factor in the decision. It’s also fair to wonder whether the ruling for regular season games might’ve been different, as having Wilson miss a couple preseason games is a much less significant punishment.
Wilson, 23, is entering his fifth season with the Capitals since being selected No. 16 overall in the 2012 NHL Draft. He’s recorded just 21 goals and 69 points in 313 regular season games.