Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson avoided a penalty call for a high hit that injured Boston’s Brandon Carlo.



Wilson lined up Carlo deep in the Boston zone, as the Bruins’ blueliner was battling for position with Jakub Vrana in pursuit of the puck.  Wilson delivered a high, hard check on the play. A stunned Carlo grabbed his head and fell to the ice, where he received a pair of uncalled cross-checks from Caps winger Jakub Vrana.

Carlo was helped off the ice; he did not return to the game.

Rule 48 covers illegal checks to the head:

Illegal Check to the Head – A hit resulting in contact with an opponent’s head where the head was the main point of contact and such contact to the head was avoidable is not permitted.

In determining whether contact with an opponent’s head was avoidable, the circumstances of the hit including the following shall be considered:

(i) Whether the player attempted to hit squarely through the opponent’s body and the head was not “picked” as a result of poor timing, poor angle of approach, or unnecessary extension of the body upward or outward.

(ii) Whether the opponent put himself in a vulnerable position by assuming a posture that made head contact on an otherwise full body check unavoidable.

(iii) Whether the opponent materially changed the position of his body or head immediately prior to or simultaneously with the hit in a way that significantly contributed to the head contact.

48.2 Minor Penalty – For violation of this rule, a minor penalty shall be assessed.

48.5 Match Penalty – The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a match penalty if, in his judgment, the player attempted to or deliberately injured his opponent with an illegal check to the head.

No call was made on the play.  In the NHL, referees are given the opportunity to review major or match penalty calls, but only if the call on the ice is a major or match. The officials would then have the ability to reduce the call to a minor penalty after review.

No call.  Therefore, no review.

The onus, Player Safety would agree, is on the player to deliver a legal body check on the play.  It did not appear that Wilson pulled up on his check, nor attempted to minimize contact.  While Carlo was eligible to be hit on this play, it’s up to Wilson to deliver a legal body check – one that avoids making the head the principle point of contact. Such contact was avoidable on this play.

Wilson’s last suspension came in October 2018, when he was banned for 20 games – later reduced to 14 by an arbitrator – for an illegal check to the head.

“Wilson takes a poor angle of approach and picks Sundqvist’s head and makes it the main point of contact,” the league said of its decision back in 2018. “It is also important to note that the head contact on this play is avoidable.”

The same could be said for tonight’s hit.

Wilson’s prior suspension came just 16 games after he returned from a three-game sentence for another illegal hit to the head. Over the course of his National Hockey League career, Wilson has been suspended four times.  Though he is not a ‘repeat offender’ based on league standards, that designation only applies to how lost salary is calculated; first-time offenders lose salary on a per-day basis, while repeat offenders lose it on a per-game calculation.

Player Safety considers a player’s complete disciplinary history when determining the length of a player’s suspension.

There’s quite a bit for them to consider on this one.


Referees for the game were Dean Morton and Pierre Lambert. Linesmen were Julien Fournier and Ryan Daisy.