Whatever Ridly Greig is having, Dylan McIlrath will take double. After the rookie forward was suspended one preseason game and one regular season game earlier today for a cross-check in the Ottawa Senators’ preseason game last night, the veteran defenseman has now been handed a pair of each for his own illegal check in the Washington Capitals’ preseason game yesterday. McIlrath knocked Boston Bruins forward (and former Hartford Wolfpack teammate) Steven Fogarty out of the game with a dangerous high hit. McIlrath left the game as well after receiving a match penalty, but that was not the end of his discipline. The league took notice and did not hesitate to respond with a considerable suspension:
After (Fogarty) moves the puck, McIlrath finishes a high, forceful check that cuts across the front of Fogarty’s core, missing the shoulder and making his head the main point of contact on a hit where such head contact was avoidable. This is an illegal check to the head… McIlrath’s shoulder makes clear, forceful contact through Fogarty’s head and the head absorbs the brunt of the impact of the check. Further, the head contact on this play is avoidable. While we recognize that Fogarty does initially lower himself slightly to make a play on the puck, that movement does not happen immediately prior to or simultaneous with the hit in a way that significantly contributes to the head contact. At issue on this play rather is McIlrath’s angle of approach. While hits from the side are not illegal, they are difficult to execute legally and on this play McIlrath chooses an angle that cuts across the front of his opponent, making the head the main point of contact.
Though McIlrath is known for his physical play, the Department of Player Safety did note that he has no history of league discipline, with no suspensions or fines in 66 career NHL games. What they did take into account however is that Fogarty did suffer an injury on the play. The Bruins’ off-season addition had to be helped off the ice and did not return. As a result, not only did McIlrath commit an illegal and dangerous check, but he in fact succeeded in causing harm to his opponent.
Like Greig, it is unclear when McIlrath will actually be able to serve his regular suspension. The 29-year-old has been a frequent depth call-up over the past few years, but did not see any action at the top level last season with the Detroit Red Wings. He is far from guaranteed a spot with the Capitals to begin the year. Also like Greig, the preseason suspension further hurts McIlrath’s chances of making the opening night roster as he will miss out on at least one preseason contest that he was likely to play in, giving Washington one less opportunity to evaluate their free agent addition. McIlrath’s regular season suspension also damages his value as a replacement player, as he cannot be an emergency recall for the Caps until he has first spent two games on the active roster to burn his suspension. This incident certainly doesn’t help McIlrath’s chances with his new team, but then again he is still in a better situation than Fogarty hence the substantial retribution from the league.