The NHL’s Department of Player Safety has suspended Buffalo Sabres’ forward Jack Eichel for two games for an illegal check to the head on Colorado Avalanche forward Carl Soderberg. This is Eichel’s first time being suspended by the NHL.
Eichel is having a career year and has tied his career-high of 25 goals this season while setting career-highs in assists (47) and points (72) in just 65 games. Though the Sabres are unlikely to qualify for the postseason, losing Eichel for any amount of time hurts the team as he is arguably their most important player each and every night.
Below is the NHL’s video explaining the hit and suspension followed by a full transcript.
Transcript of the NHL’s Video
Saturday afternoon in Colorado, Sabres’ forward Jack Eichel was penalized for an illegal check to the head of Avalanche forward Carl Soderberg.
As the video shows, The Avalanche win the faceoff and send the puck up the wall into a group of players. Both Soderberg and Eichel are in support positions as they wait for a loose puck. The puck is chipped further up the wall and both players pursue the loose puck.
With Soderberg reaching for the loose puck, Eichel cuts sharply in front of him with his upper body hitting Soderberg’s head and making it 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 the head is the main point of contact on this play as Eichel’s upper body makes direct contact with the head of Soderberg. In addition, the head contact on this play is avoidable.
While we acknowledge Eichel’s argument that Soderberg is low and reaching for the puck, this hit does not meet any of the criteria for unavoidable head contact under rule 48.
First, this is not a case where Soderberg’s bent posture means that there is no way to deliver a full body check without making unavoidable head contact. Based on Eichel’s angle of approach from Soderberg’s side, there are angles to deliver a check that does not require hitting Soderberg’s head.
In addition, this is not a case where there is a sudden movement immediately prior to or simultaneous with contact that significantly contributed to the head being the main point of contact. Soderberg is in a low position and reaching out for the puck before Eichel changes his course to initiate this hit.
While Soderberg does continue to reach for the puck and make it slightly lower as he does so, his head and core move in a consistent manner and do not suddenly and materially change position in a way that changes the nature of this hit from a full body check to one that picks the head.
The issue on this play is Eichel’s angle of approach which picks Soderberg’s head and makes it the main point of contact. If Eichel wishes to deliver this hit, he must take an angle of approach that hits through Soderberg’s near shoulder and core rather than one that goes through Soderberg’s head.
To summarize, this is an illegal check to the head. Eichel has been neither fined nor suspended previously in his 274 game NHL career. The Department of Player Safety has suspended Jack Eichel for two games.