Orlov in action with the Hershey Bears (Photo credit: Ian Oland).
The 2010-11 season was a whirlwind for young defenseman Dmitry Orlov. The Novokuznetsk, Russia native started the season at Capitals Development Camp in July before going on to play for the Kontinental Hockey League’s Metallurg Novokuznetsk, tallying two goals and 10 assists in the regular season. In December, Orlov joined Team Russia at the World Junior Championships. The Caps’ 2009 second-round pick was a standout, playing on Russia’s top defensive pairing and being named first-team all WJC as the Ruskies went on to win the gold medal.
Metallurg, however, had an awful season, finishing with the worst record in the KHL. Instead of joining Metallurg’s minor league club, the Novokuznetsk Bears, at the end of the season, Orlov reached an agreement to play for the Capitals’ AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears. Orlov played in 25 games for the Bears, including six in the postseason, tallying two goals and eight assists.
Below, Igor translates Orlov’s interview with Metallurg’s official site, where the 19 year-old discusses his first season in North America and what next year holds.
Metallurg-nk.ru — Dmitry, how did everything go with your new team?
Dmitry Orlov — When I came to Hershey, there were 21 games left in the season. I played in 19 — the last two I missed because of a small injury, the coaches let me rest, prepare for the playoffs. It’s bad that we were knocked out in the first round. More was expected from us, especially since the Hershey Bears won the cup for two years in a row. But we couldn’t do it for a third time.
Most importantly for me, I signed a contract and tried myself out in the AHL. I am delighted. The conditions were excellent. In addition, there was another Russian guy on the team [Ed. note: Dmitri Kugryshev]. He helped me settle, translated coaches instructions and generally assisted with the language when I did not understand something.
As far as hockey specifically, at first it was difficult. First of all, the road trips are all by a bus, the schedule is very tight, a few games one after another, with no time left for recuperating. Secondly, the pressure during the games is crazy. A lot of them were one-goal games, often decided in overtime. The game is very physical. It took some time to fully settle in, because hockey there is very different from Russia’s. But, I have to admit, I like the North American style better. I am glad I left. I have time to make it to the NHL. It’s a worthy goal. But even if I have to play some more in the AHL — the coaches in Hershey are counting on me.
Metallurg-nk.ru — You spent some time with the Washington Capitals…
Orlov — I came to Hershey one day before their next scheduled game, but they decided to give me some time for acclimatization, so I watched that game from the stands. And then the team went on a road trip and I did not have a Canadian visa yet so they told me I am going to stay with the Capitals. I was of course surprised, but even more so by how well I, a stranger, was treated by the team. I did not expect it. In Russia it would be different. I saw my dream, what I should strive for. I was there for three practices. Sometimes it was hard, but I managed to get through. I met Ovechkin, Semin, Varlamov. Good guys.
Metallurg-nk.ru — As a rookie from Russia, did you get any special reception from the fans?
Orlov — I wouldn’t say it was particularly special, but the fact that they started recognizing me right away — that was surprising. I had just arrived, spent the game in the stands and that very evening they were asking me for autographs, congratulating me on my new contract. After every game they were always very supportive, complimentary of my play.
Metallurg-nk.ru — How will you spend your off-season?
Orlov — July 15 I start my training camp in America. Then I come home for a little bit and then I leave for the rest of the season. Of course, I will also work out on my own and when I get to Washington I’ll be working with a personal trainer, preparing for the regular season. The next season will be very hard and probably the defining one for my career.
Additional reporting by Chris Gordon.