Photo credit: Chris Gordon
A few weeks ago, Dmitry Orlov completed his third Capitals Development Camp, flying back to his hometown of Novokuznetsk immediately after its completion. The 20-year-old Orlov will continue to train in Russia until heading back to Washington in September for his first ever NHL training camp.
Three weeks ago, Sports.ru’s Andrey Osadchenko had a fascinating Q & A with Dima, with the Caps prospect going in-depth on his time in Hershey, who impressed him most at the AHL level, and his goals for the upcoming season. Orlov — who’s been involved in a few altercations during his time in the KHL — also revealed if anyone tried to fight him during his time with the Bears.
Below, RMNB’s Igor Kleyner translates the interview.
Dump and Chase
Andrey Osadchenko: You radically changed your surroundings during the last season. You played half a year for Kuznya, and then you went on to the AHL. Did it create additional complications for your adjustment process to the North American hockey?
Dmitry Orlov: Yes, it wasn’t easy, I needed some time. I did not know much English, so in the beginning I couldn’t even understand the coach. I knew a little bit, but mostly Kugryshev was helping me. Of course later on, toward the end of the season, I could — to a degree — communicate with the coach. We could discuss hockey issues. It turned out that the season for Novokuznetsk ended in February, it was too early. So my agent and I decided to move to America. In the end, I managed to play for two and a half more months and signed a contract with Washington.
Andrey Osadchenko: It was somewhat unusual to see you wearing not the usual number 9, but 27. Why did you pick that number?
Dmitry Orlov: I was given a choice between 27 and 34. I decided to go with 27. There were no other options, including number 9. Because that number belonged to someone else who played for Hershey in the past, and now the number is retired. So I was told: ’Sorry, but there is no way.’
Andrey Osadchenko: When our goalies move across the ocean, they point out that they have to be more involved in the game because there are more shots on goal. Forwards talk about the difference in the way the attacking play develops and in the number of physical one-on-one battles. What was the biggest adjustment for you, as a defenseman?
Dmitry Orlov: For us, there is also a lot of physical confrontation along the boards, when the puck is dumped into the zone. You need to get to the puck as soon as possible, and then either pass to your partner, or bring the puck out of the zone by yourself. Meanwhile, you have to avoid being hit. I realized that defensemen there are getting hit a lot. In Russia very rarely do you see such physical game against a defenseman. But there, they are getting it even more than forwards.
Andrey Osadchenko: Is there anything in the North American style that you don’t like?
Dmitry Orlov: Not really. Because it was my own choice. I want to play in America. That is my life. How could I possibly not like it? I play the game, and I enjoy it. Certain things are hard, but there is nothing you can do about it.
Andrey Osadchenko: A lot of our players aren’t very appreciative of the great number of fights in the AHL.
Dmitry Orlov: Actually, I wouldn’t say there are that many fights. And about the AHL, the talk is that it’s such a meat grinder, they almost kill there. So, I played there. Yes, there is a lot of hard hitting. Yes, there is fighting. But most of them are between the fighters. I feel all right about fighting. If you can fight – fight. If you can’t – play hockey.
Not afraid to mix it up: Orlov (#9 in white) gets in a fight with Alexander Aksenenko in a January 10, 2010 KHL match against Amur.
Andrey Osadchenko: Has anybody challenged you to a fight yet?
Dmitry Orlov: No, I have not had to fight yet. I am not a fighter, I am trying to play hockey. But if a situation comes up, of course I may have to get into a fight. It’s not that big of a deal. Sometimes you have to stand up for yourself or your partner.
Andrey Osadchenko: In Russia, the North American style is often disparaged as “dump and chase”. Do you agree with that?
Dmitry Orlov: To a degree, yes. There is plenty of dump and chase, but there is also normal hockey. The third and fourth lines mostly just dump and chase. But the first two lines try to be creative. The guys who play on the first and second lines know how to play. I think that is how the game is played everywhere now. Even in Russia. The third and fourth lines are mostly physical, and the top two are more oriented toward creativity and power play.
Andrey Osadchenko: You came to the AHL with about twenty games to go in the regular season, but still managed to get a micro-injury even in such short period of time. Was it just an unfortunate accident or something else?
Dmitry Orlov: It was just a groin pull. I wasn’t hit, there was no contact. After the game the coaches came to me and told me – if you need to, you better rest it. There was only one or two games left.
Andrey Osadchenko: Have you ever heard any instructions from the coaches that you did not fully agreed with?
Dmitry Orlov: No. Hershey plays the same system as Washington – a carbon copy. We played all right, and the coaching instructions were fine.
Andrey Osadchenko: Are you happy with your stats in the regular season? Nine points in 19 games for a rookie defenseman — those are very decent numbers.
Dmitry Orlov: I would have liked something better. Besides, my plus-minus ended up being minus-seven, I think. At first everything was going well, and then something stopped working — we were constantly scored against during my shift. Although, during the playoffs I managed to rehabilitate myself. By then, my adjustment period was over. And my plus-minus was completely different.
Andrey Osadchenko: Did you keep the puck that you scored your first AHL goal with, or did you not think of it as an important milestone in your career.
Dmitry Orlov: I got the puck. As soon as I scored, our captain skated over, grabbed the puck and gave it to the team doctor. They put tape on it and wrote ‘The first AHL goal scored against such and such team.’ They gave it to me after the game. It’s at home now.
Andrey Osadchenko: In the NHL they usually put it in a pretty frame with a photo.
Dmitry Orlov: Oh, please! This is not the NHL, so… (Smiles)
Andrey Osadchenko: Did you feel a lot of attention from the media in America?
Dmitry Orlov: No. I only have had a couple of interviews so far. The first one – right after I came here. A Russian man (guess who?) came to me right after my first game for Hershey. And the second one, when I was in Washington. I couldn’t go on a road trip to Canada with the team because I did not have visa. I was at the Capitals game with Rangers, and another Russian reporter came to me. And that’s all.
Andrey Osadchenko: Some of our players say that they prefer to interact with the foreign press. Do you in any way differentiate the journalists by their nationality?
Dmitry Orlov: No. If they ask, why not answer. I don’t see any problem with that. It’s a normal situation. If they are interested, we should talk.
Golf – it’s interesting, but hard.
Andrey Osadchenko: Hershey is referred to as Chocolate Town because of the world famous chocolate factory. Have you tried the local sweets yet?
Dmitry Orlov: Haven’t had a chance. But you can smell the chocolate in the town.
Andrey Osadchenko: We often hear that in North America our players are almost mandated to consume a lot of protein. Is this also the case at Hershey?
Dmitry Orlov: Yes, the guys do drink protein shakes and various recovery drinks. But I don’t. I don’t need to gain weight. I am doing all right as far as that goes.
Andrey Osadchenko: Hershey is a tiny town. Were you bored on your days off?
Dmitry Orlov: Yes, it is a bit of a problem of course. We spent almost all of our spare time at home, taking naps during the day. Quite boring, there is nowhere to go. Yes, we go out to dinner, lunch, once we went to play golf, went to the movies. That’s where I study the language. When I come to a camp, or anywhere else, everybody tells me to watch movies in English – that it’s very useful. So that’s what I try to do, even during flights. It does help.
Andrey Osadchenko: Everybody says that it is difficult to understand Americans because they talk very fast.
Dmitry Orlov: I agree. I noticed that too. If they speak fast, I can’t tell the words apart, so I can’t understand what they say.
Andrey Osadchenko: There is another Russian playing for Hershey – Dmitry Kugryshev. Have you taught your teammates any Russian words yet?
Dmitry Orlov: (Laughs) Just ‘Hi’ and ‘Bye.’ Nothing else.
Andrey Osadchenko: And how do you like golf?
Dmitry Orlov: I like it. I played for the first time, but I would love to try again. As far as golf goes, Hershey is pretty good. The owner of the local golf course has a good relationship with the team president, so the players go there and play for free. Play as much as you wish, no one will say anything.
Andrey Osadchenko: Do hockey skills help with golf in any way?
Dmitry Orlov: The technique is completely different. Very difficult. But interesting.
“The WJC is won– the season is over”
Andrey Osadchenko: In Hershey, were they nagging you with questions about the scandal after the WJC final?
Dmitry Orlov: Everybody wanted to know. Everybody was asking. Everybody who had heard about it was inquiring, asking questions. What happened? How? The issue was drawing a lot of attention.
Andrey Osadchenko: What did you say?
Dmitry Orlov: I said that everything was normal and calm. We did not misbehave, did not do anything horrible. Just calmly boarded the flight. Perhaps, someone did not like something. I have no idea what. Honestly, I don’t even want to remember all that.
Andrey Osadchenko: Have the emotions from the victory calmed down, or do you still get goose bumps when you think about it?
Dmitry Orlov: Of course I think about it. Whenever I see the video – I get goose bumps. After the WJC, for a long time I could not calm down. There was such a feeling of euphoria, it was even difficult to go on the ice. I couldn’t even think about it. It felt like the end of the season. We won the world championship – and that’s it, the season is over. But that was not the case. Then I realized that I have to think about hockey, the season was still going on. I understood not to live in the past.
The task – to fight my way into Washington this year.
Andrey Osadchenko: Sheldon Souray played for Hershey last year. They say his shot is even harder than Chara’s. Did you notice?
Dmitry Orlov: Yes, we played as a pair. He really does have an awesome shot. There is a good reason he has played in the NHL. Someone to learn from.
Andrey Osadchenko: You also have a hard shot. Did you ask Souray for any pointers on how to improve your shot?
Dmitry Orlov: No. Some just have a gift for it. He is really-really big. And the shot really depends on that a lot.
Andrey Osadchenko: Among the AHL players, who made the biggest impression on you?
Dmitry Orlov: A defenseman from Connecticut named Wade Redden. Just like Souray, he plays for the farm-club, but his salary comes from the Rangers. He is a very good player. I don’t understand what he is doing in the AHL.
Andrey Osadchenko: Are you surprised that the Capitals decided not to sign Semyon Varlamov to a new contract?
Dmitry Orlov: Well… I think if they had made him a good offer, he would have stayed. But since they could not agree on something, trade. Which is normal. Now Semyon has signed with Colorado, and I wish him the best. Yes, I would like for Washington to have more Russian players, but that’s how it worked out. He is a good goalie. He was just unlucky with injuries.
Andrey Osadchenko: Having spent half a year in Canadian Juniors, Maxim Kitsyn returned to Metallurg. Why did you decide to follow a different path and coming back to the AHL.
Dmitry Orlov: He has a contract, but I was released.
Andrey Osadchenko: Last summer you said that you had two more years to go on your contract with Kuznya. Did you have to buy it out?
Dmitry Orlov: No, they let me go. They said: ‘We are giving you a chance. Go, prove yourself. If it doesn’t work out, come back to us. Our doors are always open for you.’
Andrey Osadchenko: Do you think you have a better chance of making it to the NHL via the AHL, rather than the KHL?
Dmitry Orlov: That’s what I decided. I want to test myself there. Washington has been calling for me for three years already. They told me, sorry, but we are not going to wait for long. It was not a spontaneous decision. I have wanted it for a long time. I asked for it, and they let me go, gave me my chance. Now I have to prove that it wasn’t all for naught. Whether I get to stay with Washington, or they send me back to the farm club, we’ll see after the camp.
Andrey Osadchenko: There is a great deal of competition in Washington now for the roster spots on defense. Are you afraid?
Dmitry Orlov: What do I have to fear? If they send me back to the AHL, I’ll play there. I will be proving that I deserve to play in the NHL. I didn’t sign a three-year contract for nothing. I don’t give up. I will fight for it.
Andrey Osadchenko: Do you set a target for yourself as to when you need to make the main team?
Dmitry Orlov: Of course I do. I have my goals for the season, and I want to meet them. For example, to make it to Washington – this year. I will give my best effort to achieve that.
Additional reporting by Ian Oland.