Dmitry Orlov

Photo credit: Kyle M.

It was over 30 minutes past the scheduled end of his practice session, but Dmitry Orlov simply did not want to leave the ice. With almost all of his teammates from Group C already in the locker room, the 20-year-old defenseman had the secondary rink at Kettler Capitals Iceplex all to himself, effortlessly gliding around invisible opponents with the puck seemingly glued to his stick. Dima was clearly enjoying the moment.

Group C included such standout blueliners as Roman Hamrlik, an NHL veteran of almost two decades, and John Carlson, not much older than Dmitry, but already recognized as one of the top young rearguards in the league. The young Russian appeared to be unfazed by such company. Every time the players gathered around a member of the coaching staff to receive instruction, Dima took his spot, usually in the front row of the huddle, and listened and watched very intently. He no longer relies on anyone’s help in order to understand — a very timely improvement in his command of the English language — as all of his Russian-speaking teammates were assigned to Group A.

Having finally completed his puck-dangling routine, Dima finally went off into the locker room, but not before he patiently signed autographs for a small group of his fans waiting for him rink side. A few minutes later he made his way into the media area — by then completely empty, aside from a couple of reporters finishing up their stories — and spoke candidly with RMNB about his improving English, participating in shootouts, and his first and only fight.

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Mark French

Photo credit: Hershey Bears Facebook Page

In early February, when Metallurg Novokuznetsk failed to reach the KHL playoffs, Dmitry Orlov worked out a deal with the team’s management. Instead of being sent down to the MHL to play for Metallurg’s affiliate during their playoff run, Orlov started his professional career in the Capitals’ organization to work towards his goal of becoming an NHL player.

He flew to America, and made his AHL debut with the Bears on February 27th. That night, Dima registered an assist, spent time on the power play, and had a first period so solid that Tim Leone called it “the best first 20 minutes from a 19-year-old D I’ve ever seen in this league.”

Orlov went on to total nine points in the remaining 19 games of the AHL regular season, and he experienced his first ever AHL playoff series, a 4-2 series loss to the Charlotte Checkers.

The six-foot Novokuznetsk native is now back in DC, participating in his first ever NHL Training Camp. I caught up with Hershey Bears Head Coach Mark French — the same man who guided the Bears to an AHL record 60 wins and the team’s eleventh Calder Cup in 2010 — and asked him about Orlov’s rookie season, what he needs to improve to make the NHL, and if Dima has the potential to be a 20-goal scorer in the NHL.

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