Photos by Chris Gordon
When Metallurg Novokuznetsk’s season ended in early February without a playoff berth, Dmitry Orlov had two options. He could finish the year in Russia again with Metallurg’s MHL affiliate, the Novokuznetsk Bears, or begin his professional career in North America. After dominating the KHL’s junior circuit and winning the Davydov trophy as the MHL Playoff MVP in 2009-10, Dima needed a new challenge. So he negotiated an agreement with his KHL club and flew over to America to sign a contract with the Washington Capitals.
On February 27th, Orlov impressed fans and media alike in his AHL debut against the Albany Devils. Not only did he register a point in his first game as a Hershey Bear, he inspired The Patriot-News’s Tim Leone to exclaim,”That’s the best first 20 minutes from a 19-year-old D I’ve ever seen in this league.” Orlov went on to score his first AHL goal — ten days later — on March 9th against the Worchester Sharks and finished the year with nine points in 19 games.
After taking a brief vacation in Turkey, the defensive prospect is back in America, and participating in his third Development Camp. So far, the reports are positive.
“He’s in a lot better shape and he’s lighter and in better condition than he was in the other camps,” Bruce Boudreau told reporters Monday. “I think he wants to make a real good impression. He was always going back to Russia, but now he knows he’s here. He wants to make the team.”
One problem remains, however. Orlov still has a limited grasp of English, which can make instruction difficult, at times, for the coaches. While in Hershey, Orlov lived with fellow Russian-born winger Dmitry Kugryshev, who offered help with translating. In Development Camp, Stanislav Galiev has filled a similar role.
“You know, the thing [we're looking for] is a better understanding of the game because of the language barrier,” Boudreau explained. “And to see if he understands [English] a little bit better than last year or the year before. If he understands it, we know he can play and he can shoot and he can stand up and hit. And he’s got great hockey sense. It’s just the communication part that I’m a little worried about sometimes.”
RMNB’s own Igor Kleyner caught up with Orlov after his first day of Development Camp to discuss his training regiment, thoughts on the AHL and what words in English he does understand. Below, we offer the translation of his conversation.
Igor Kleyner: You cut your summer vacation a bit short this year, didn’t you? Why?
Dmitry Orlov: I wanted to start training a bit earlier this time. I have been here since the 28th of June, training with the strength coach Mark Nemish. We have been getting ready for the [developmnent] camp, both skating and in the gym. Today was the first day, it was a bit easier… It is going to be a difficult season for me, I want to make the main team in Washington, that’s why I started so early, I hope it is going to help me.
IK: Coach Boudreau was talking to the press about you, and he pointed out that this time around your conditioning improved significantly.
DO: I agree, this year, after the season ended, within a week I started working out again. I always worked on my conditioning during the summer, but this year I changed a few things, and I feel better. In any case, I am 20-years old now, a bit older, so my physical conditioning should have improved.
IK: If it is not a secret, what were those changes in your conditioning program this summer?
DO: Well, I used to not skate during summer time, I tried to rest more, and did some swimming. This summer, I skated four times a week, so now it’s easier for me to return to the ice. I feel very good during practice, because I am in good physical condition.
IK: Lets go back to the last season for a second… the last time we talked to you was after your first game for Hershey. Having now played for a couple of months in North America, and even getting to try yourself in playoffs, how do you compare the game here with hockey in Russia, how different is it?
DO: Well, the KHL is definitely stronger than AHL, but the AHL is also quite a special league, a lot of guys are doing everything they possibly can to make it to the NHL, and work very hard in a gym, so they are very strong physically. There is a lot of physical play everywhere on the ice, in the corners, every meter of the ice surface is contested, so it is very hard… And in the playoffs it was particularly hard for me, you can say it was the first ever real playoff series for me. I realized that the regular season and the playoffs are two completely different games. In the playoffs, it’s all about the team. And there is even more physical play than during the regular season, and the defense is even more important. The whole game is built from defense. Very few risky plays where you can get caught out of position, everybody works very hard. It is a very interesting game. You have to work hard and give it all, but if you win – the emotions… you feel good.
IK: Everybody wants to know how well you understand the coach. Did you watch the Winter Classic last year?
DO: Yes, we were at WJC when it took place on January 1st, so we all watched it. It was very interesting.
IK: Did you get a chance to see the HBO documentary 24/7 Penguins/Capitals: The Road to the Winter Classic?
DO: Yes, I did see some of it, not everything, but it was interesting, too.
IK: So, as the fans found out from the show, the coach Boudreau really likes to use quite “colorful” language when explaining the task to his players – you know, the words that get replaced with bleeps during the daytime broadcast… How well do you think you can understand that kind of English?
DO: Just fine. Those are even easier to understand than regular words! [laughing]
IK: Last question. Your 20th birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks. What would be your birthday wish for yourself?
DO: Well, to stay healthy, avoid injuries, and to make the main team.
IK: Thank you very much, and good luck to you.
Additional reporting by Ian Oland.