Dmitri Orlov taking in his first AHL game in Hershey

Orlov took in his first ever AHL game tonight at Giant Center. (Photo by SHOE’s Kyle M.)

Since being drafted in the second round of the 2009 draft by the Capitals Dmitri Orlov has emerged as one of the top defensive prospects in Washington’s system, spurred by his solid play across the pond. Last year after Kontinental Hockey League’s Metallurg Novokuznetsk failed to qualify for the playoffs, the club decided to send him down to the Novokuznetsk Bears of the MHL, the KHL’s developmental league. After totaling only four goals and three assists in 43 KHL games, Orlov quickly found his game in the junior circuit, leading the Bears to the MHL Finals.

Orlov’s nine goals and 10 assists in the playoffs ranked him third among all skaters. He was awarded several top honors including the Davydov trophy as the MHL Playoff MVP and was also named the best defenseman of the MHL Finals and Semifinals.

Dima — as some fans know him — followed up his successful 2009-10 with two goals and 10 assists for Metallurg in 2010-11. Orlov also won a gold medal at the 2011 World Junior Championships with the U20 Russian National Team, playing on the top defensive pairing. He was named first-team all WJC along with fellow Caps prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov.

Since Metallurg once again failed to make the playoffs this year and finished with the KHL’s worst record, Orlov and the club reached an agreement allowing him to start his professional career in the Capitals organization earlier than expected. On Saturday, he flew to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania before taking in Sunday’s Hershey Bears game against the Charlotte Checkers at Giant Center. Orlov is expected to officially sign with the Bears of the American Hockey League on Monday.

This is not Orlov’s first stint in America. He attended the Capitals 2009 and 2010 Development Camps, winning over Caps fans with his love of cupcakes in the process.

RMNB’s resident translator Igor Kleyner translated the 19 year-old Novokuznetsk native’s final interview with Metallurg before departing for the United States. Check it out below the jump.

Dmitri Orlov poses with the 2011 World Junior Championship Trophy

Dmitri Orlov poses with the 2011 World Junior Championship Trophy

Dmitri Orlov, Metallurg’s defenseman and a winner of 2011 World Junior Championship, is departing for the farm team of the Washington Capitals on Saturday. That’s where he will spend the rest of the season.

According to Metallurg’s sporting director Leonid Veisfeld, the interests of the young players must always be considered. If Dmitri Orlov wants to play overseas, he should be given a chance and the team’s management will not stand in his way of achieving his dream. The team and the player are parting ways amicably: Dmitri knows that if things do not work out for him on the other side of the ocean he is always welcome in his hometown. Especially since Metallurg will retain the rights for the player in Russia. Dmitri will attempt to make the Capitals’ roster for the next season but it is quite possible that it will take a few months and the road to the spot with the main team will go through the farm club. If he succeeds, everybody at Metallurg will be happy for him. If not, he can come back any time. Time will tell if Dmitri’s decision to attempt the move to the NHL, especially one of its stronger teams, was the right one.

Before his departure for the North America, Dmitri Orlov answered a few questions.

Question – Dmitri, Metallurg finished the last in the regular season, it is of course a disappointing result. But how do you see your season personally?

Dmitri Orlov – In principle, I am satisfied, especially since it’s not over for me yet. One of the main tasks was to play as well as possible at the World Junior Championship, try to win the gold — and it was accomplished. Yes, sometimes it was pretty difficult. We were losing a lot at Metallurg, it wasn’t easy psychologically. But I tried to come out for every game and play my game.

Now I am going to America, I’ll be playing for the Washington Capitals farm team — Hershey. I am going to spend three months there, then we can make conclusions about my season. Let’s see how I do there.

Question – Do you have any concerns before your departure for Hershey?

Dmitri Orlov – Of course, I am worried. I am sure it’s not going to be easy. I don’t even know where I am going to live. I have to make the line-up, prove everything all over again. Hershey is a leader in the AHL, with grownups playing. It won’t be easy.

Up until now I have played my whole life in Novokuznetsk. I was born and grew up here. It was good to join the first team at such early age, you can say I got lucky. I broke my collarbone during the season before joining the first team, didn’t play for a long time, really struggled to recover, gained some extra weight, and as a result, had a lot of problems in training. After a week of practicing with the second team, they said that Maxim Kitsin and I are being transferred to Metallurg; I was of course very happy, but at the same time worried a lot. I remember my first practice with the first team, it was a cross country 10 kilometers run, I finished last — I was always a bad runner — so I wasn’t particularly upset about it. Then, I show up for the second practice, and the doctor tells me: “Eagle, pack your bags, the coach is not happy with you, you are going back to the second team.” The second practice was a game, I think we were playing team handball… but in the end, they just let it go, I was always finishing the cross country runs the last. So they eventually kept me in the first team, thanks to [Metallurg head coach] Sergey Alekseevich Nikolaev at the time. You can say he opened the door into the big hockey for me.

Of course I am very thankful to my parents, brother, grandparents — they always have been and will be very supportive. They help me with advice in both hockey and life. When I was a little kid, my father recorded all my games on video, then we watched and analyzed together. Now we don’t have to record anything ourselves, but we still watch my games with my father, he always points out my mistakes. He never played the game himself, but he understands the game well and always gives me advice.

I am also grateful to my first coach — Vladimir Georgievich Efimov — he worked with me, of course not everything was always perfect between us — but that’s normal. And my next coach, Valery Nikolaevich Kalashnikov, he worked with me for a year. He always took good care of me, helped and supported me, saw my potential.

Question – What would you like to wish for Metallurg and its supporters?

Dmitri Orlov – For the team, to make playoffs, to keep the fans happy, to fill the arena. You must have proper finances for that. There always have been and should be hockey in Novokuznetsk. It’s a hockey town. I hope for the best.

Additional reporting by Ian Oland; editing by Chris Gordon.