Photo credit: Ian Oland
In the Hershey Bears 4-3 win over the Albany Devils on Saturday night, teenage Caps prospect Dmitri Orlov impressed during his first game in North America. Not only did he register a point in his AHL debut, his first period of play was so solid that he even inspired the normally reserved Tim Leone to exclaim,”that’s the best first 20 minutes from a 19-year-old D I’ve ever seen in this league.”
For Caps fans who are frustrated with Washington’s once potent but now sputtering power play, Orlov’s accelerated development is nothing short of fantastic news. Hershey’s bench boss Mark French, encouraged by how much Dima seamlessly blended into Hershey’s lineup in the opening minutes, rode his hot hand using the Novokuznetsk, Russia native on the second power play unit later in the game. Orlov responded by unleashing several booming slap shots at Albany netminder Mike McKenna and eventually collected an assist on Steve Pinizzotto’s second period power play goal.
Speaking to the media after Monday’s trades, Capitals General Manager George McPhee had nothing but praise for Orlov: “We’re pretty high on this player. He’s a mobile puck moving defenseman,” McPhee said. “Really good on the power play… he’s got an edge to him. He can hit and play tough. And he really wants to be here.”
RMNB’s own Igor Kleyner caught up with Orlov after his first pro game Saturday to discuss the Bears, the AHL and yes, even Evgeny Kuznetsov’s wedding. Below the jump, we offer the translation of his conversation.
Q. – What are your first impressions about this game – your first one in this league, first victory, first point?
A. – Of course I am very glad our team won the game, and I even managed to get an assist, my first point here in the very first game. Everything went quite well for me. I am very glad I came here, absolutely no regrets. I also had a chance to spend three days in Washington, practiced with the team there. I have seen more than enough to motivate me to do my best to grow as a hockey player in order to eventually make it there. I think the next three months here will really help me to accomplish that, I will get a chance to improve my language skills, and to learn the system the team plays here, which is very similar to the one in Washington.
Q. – And how are you doing with your English – is it difficult, or are you getting used to it?
A. – Well, basically, I cannot say anything myself, but I understand some — not always, but sometimes I do. I get a lot of help from Dima Kugryshev. While I was in Washington, I met Sasha Semin, Ovechkin, Varlamov, they were helping me out while I was there.
Q. – What about communicating on the ice with your defense partner – is it difficult?
A. – Well, not really, there is not that much talking going on the ice. If I misunderstand something — the coaches explain it later, they show it by drawing on the board, and if necessary, Dima helps out with translation.
Q. – How are you settling down in Hershey? Do you live with Dima [Kugryshev]?
A. – Yes, and I am very thankful to him for letting me stay with him. It’s not that important — my game is what matters the most.
Q. – What do you think of the town of Hershey?
A. – Well I know there is not much here except for the chocolate factory, and the amusement park — but I came here with one objective in mind — to play hockey. I have a dream — to play for the team in Washington.
Q. – How was the reception you got in Washington during you practice there?
A. – It was normal, in fact, I was pleasantly surprised, it was even better than normal. Everybody was smiling, helping me, even making fun of me a bit — but it was all perfectly normal. I really like it here, both in Washington and Hershey as well.
Q. – At the press conference after the game, the coach was asked about your performance today [Ed. note: at the 1:05 mark]. He gave you a very positive assessment, especially complimenting your good hockey sense.
A. – Well, I’ll say thank you to the coach, and I will try my best to make sure that he would always think so. [Ed. note: You can tell that Dima was caught off guard by French’s compliment and was really honored by what he said.]
Q. – One of your coaches in the past gave you a nickname – ORRlov – in reference to a famous hockey player Bobby Orr, right?
A. – Yes, that’s true…
Q. – And in the past you also mentioned that you try to model your game after Kirill Koltsov. Are there any current NHL players you like and look up to?
A. – There are lots of good players, and everybody has different strengths. I never really had one favorite player, but I try to watch what other players do, and maybe sometimes try to replicate if I see something I really like.
Q. – You played rugby as a kid, and your whole family has a background in rugby…
A. – Yes. My brother is a rugby player, and my father was one as well. I played rugby in summertime in parallel with hockey for a while. It really helped me to develop physically when I was going to rugby camps and played in tournaments. I think it was very helpful. Rugby is a very physical sport, just like hockey, so it really helped me develop useful skills.
Q. – Zhenya Kuznetsov is getting married this summer. Have you received an invitation yet?
A. – Well, I know he is getting married, but he has not invited me yet! [laughing]
Q. – But if the wedding is in early summer — you may not be able to make it if you are still in playoffs…
A. – I need to give him a call…
Q. – Last question… After the World Junior Championships, Kuznetsov declared “Next up is the Stanley Cup!”. What do you think?
A. – Yes, I would love for that to happen. And I am hoping to make it to Sochi [Ed. note: The 2014 Winter Olympic Games]… there are dreams and goals, and I will be doing my best trying to achieve them.
Q. – Thanks and good luck.
A. – Thank you.