It was obvious that Tom Wilson would face some supplemental discipline from the league after his hit on St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist, and today the Department of Player Safety announced that the Washington Capitals forward will have an in-person hearing on Wednesday morning. The Capitals are set to open their season that evening when they welcome the Boston Bruins to town, but will likely be without Wilson. If a decision is not reached in time for the game he would still not be allowed to play given his match penalty, but because it is an in-person hearing the league now has the right to deliver a suspension upwards of five games.
There is no hiding that Wilson is in trouble here, as he has an extremely long history with the league’s disciplinary group. Just during the 2017-18 season alone he was suspended three times, and was involved in several other incidents that were looked at by the league. Wilson himself has admitted that he has to try and avoid his dangerous hits, but so far there is little indication that he can realistically do it. In fact, that physical style may be what secured him such a healthy contract in the offseason. Wilson signed a six-year, $31MM contract with the Capitals in July despite scoring just 104 points in his 391 career regular season games. Granted, he was a dominant force in the postseason for Washington en route to a Stanley Cup but there are few comparable contracts in terms of offensive production. It’s his on-the-edge play that sets him apart, but also may lead to his demise for the start of the year and for long stretches throughout the contract.
It’s been this way for Wilson for a long time, turning a nine-goal campaign with the Plymouth Whalers in 2011-12 into a first-round draft selection and then fighting and checking his way to a spot beside Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin on the Capitals top line. He’s an extremely important player for the team, but incidents like this will only continue to escalate in punishment going forward. If the league hands out a long suspension to start the year, he’ll be treading on thin ice every time he uses his size and speed to attack an opponent physically.