Seattle Kraken forward Jacob Melanson has been suspended two games for an illegal check to the head of Edmonton Oilers winger James Hamblin.
The hit came with 2:42 remaining in the second period of Monday night’s game in Seattle. Hamblin was engaged with Kraken defenseman Michal Kempny when Melanson cut across the lane, clipping Hamblin in he head with his shoulder and sending the Oiler forward into Kempny.
Hamblin appeared injured on the play; he left the game and did not return.
Referees Graham Skilliter and Reid Anderson immediately handed Melanson a match penalty for an illegal check to the head. Here’s the rule:
[An illegal check to the head is] 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.
For violation of this rule, a minor penalty shall be assessed. 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.
NHL Player Safety reviewed the play:
As the video shows, Hamblin picks up the puck and skates it into neutral ice with Melanson beginning to back check through center. Seeing an opponent, Hamblin chips the puck off the wall around him. After the puck is gone, Melanson initiates a high hit making the head the main point of contact on a hit where such head contact was avoidable. This is an illegal check to the head.
It is important to note that both elements of the illegal check to the head rule are satisfied on this hit. First, the head is the main point of contact, as Melanson’s shoulder makes contact with the head of Hamblin and it is the head that absorbs the majority of the force of this hit. Second, the head contact on this play is avoidable. Melanson chooses an angle of approach that cuts across the front of Hamblin’s body, missing his core and picking the head. If Melanson wants to deliver this hit, he must stay low and choose an angle that leads to a full body check through the shoulder or chest rather than one that makes the head the main point of contact.
This is Melanson’s first run-in with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety; he had not previously been fined nor suspended. It’s also the first disciplinary action by Player Safety against a Seattle Kraken player.
Seattle went on to win the game 3-0. Referees were Graham Skilliter (#24) and Reid Anderson (#49); linesmen were Ryan Gibbons (#58) and rookie Joe Mahon (#62).