Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson will get the longest suspension in the NHL for on-ice play since Raffi Torres was banned for 41 games in 2015, also for a preseason hit.
WASHINGTON — Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson was suspended 20 games by the NHL on Wednesday for a blindside hit to the head of an opponent during the preseason.
Wilson's punishment was announced just hours before the reigning Stanley Cup champion Capitals were to raise a banner and open their title defense by hosting the Boston Bruins to begin the regular season.
The physical right winger, who plays on Washington's top line with captain Alex Ovechkin, drew a 10-minute penalty for the way he hit St. Louis Blues center Oskar Sundqvist in the second period of the teams' exhibition game on Sunday. Wilson had an in-person hearing with the NHL's Department of Player Safety in New York on Wednesday.
The video released to explain the punishment says: ''Wilson delivers a high, forceful hit, which makes Sundqvist's head the main point of contact on a hit where such head contact was avoidable and causes an injury.''
Blues coach Mike Yeo called the hit ''predatory.''
Wilson will forfeit $1.26 million in salary because of the suspension. It is the longest suspension in the NHL for on-ice play since Raffi Torres of the San Jose Sharks was banned for 41 games in 2015, also for a preseason hit.
The league noted that Wilson ''is considered a repeat offender'' — and, indeed, this is hardly Wilson's first time has been in trouble for the way he has taken out an opposing player.
He was suspended twice because of preseason hits a year ago, then had to sit out three games during the playoffs for a check to the head that broke Pittsburgh Penguins center Zach Aston-Reese's jaw and caused a concussion.
''There are certain ways they are calling things. You need to be aware of how they're making their calls on suspensions. He's a big, strong guy who skates really well. There is a lot of force behind his contact,'' Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said Tuesday, the day before the suspension. ''He needs to be aware of how they're determining what's legal and what's illegal from the league's standpoint.''
The Capitals see Wilson as a vital part of the franchise's future, and MacLellan signed him to a $31 million, six-year contract this offseason.
Wilson doubled his career high with 14 goals and set a new mark with 35 points last season, when he was the only NHL forward with 30-plus points and 90-plus penalty minutes, finishing with 187 and a league-high 41 minors. Then he contributed 15 points in 21 games during Washington's run to its first championship.