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.

Igor Kleyner: This is your first training camp with the Capitals. Until now you only participated in Development Camps. Do you find them to be significantly different?

Dmitry Orlov: Yes, of course you feel the difference. You have real NHL players participating in this camp, so it is something new for me, more interesting — and harder at the same time. The guys here are higher level players. I really like everything, trying to give it my best in practice sessions.

Dmitry Orlov (front) poses with Team Russia after winning gold at the WJC.

Igor Kleyner: Last week you had a chance to play in the rookie game against the Flyers in Philadelphia. Was that your first game experience in a real NHL arena?

Dmitry Orlov: No, Buffalo was my first. [WJC 2011]

Igor Kleyner: Nevertheless, for the first time you had the opportunity to wear your team colors in an actual game. Did you feel comfortable out there or were there jitters?

Dmitry Orlov: I wasn’t worried. I tried to be mentally prepared for the game; it really was my first game for the Capitals, even if it wasn’t technically an official game. The arena was great. It’s a real pleasure to play in such a place. I was pleased with my game, although I was disappointed that we lost. We tried, but we allowed three goals in the second period — and then we pressed very hard, we had a lot of chances, but just couldn’t finish.

Igor Kleyner: In a game like that though, the final score may be less important than for each player to show the coaching staff what they can do on the ice.

Dmitry Orlov: Well, no — we still wanted to win as a team. Of course you want to show your own game, but you can’t forget to play as a team. If you just start running around trying to show off – that’s not what any coach wants to see.

Igor Kleyner: Among the things your Hershey coach finds himself impressed about you, he mentioned that you are not intimidated by anything, and even have a certain swagger.

Dmitry Orlov: Well, whenever I am on the ice, mentally I give myself fully to the game. Ever since I was a kid, I played like that, all out, with emotions and no fear. I always give it my best and never give up, no matter what the score is.

Igor Kleyner: Swagger or not, the reality is most defensemen out there are two to four inches taller and about 20 pounds heavier than you. Do you see your size as a significant problem or an obstacle that can be overcome?

Dmitry Orlov: Yes, it is true, a few more centimeters would not hurt — but I try not to pay too much attention to that. If you are a bit short — you just have to compensate for that by being a smarter hockey player. Sometimes, when a bigger player comes at me, I don’t sit back — I try to hit him first, before he expects to be hit. You have to play smart, you have to believe in yourself, even be somewhat arrogant on the ice — and then it’s not so important how tall you are. There are many small players in the NHL, I saw a couple of small guys looking very good playing for Buffalo. So the height is not that important, you can compensate for it with skill and being well prepared physically.

Igor Kleyner: At the end of the practice session, I saw you were in the group of the players practicing breakaways, going one-on-one against Tomas Vokoun — and you were one of the very few who managed to score [roofed it]. What do you think about him? He is probably the best goalie you ever got to face?

Dmitry Orlov: I agree, he is a great goalie, with many years of NHL experience. And how did I score — not sure, maybe he was just tired at the end of the practice, or maybe I just had a good shot [laughing].

Orlov takes a shot from the slot in a game with Hershey. (Via the Bears Facebook Page)

Igor Kleyner: Speaking of one-on-ones, did you ever get a chance in a shootout?

Dmitry Orlov: A long time ago, when I was a kid. But not lately. I don’t know why –sometimes I would be playing very well, scoring — but no, I guess the coaches haven’t trusted me enough.

Igor Kleyner: So if there is a shootout to break a tie, you wouldn’t mind giving it a shot?

Dmitry Orlov: Why not? If a player thinks he can score, why not give him a chance? It is the coach’s decision though. I think any player would want to get a chance to score in a shootout, although you need to be able to handle the situation mentally. You have to be confident, you can’t be nervous. It’s mostly a game of nerves: goalie versus the shooter.

Igor Kleyner: But you personally would like to try to do it in a real meaningful game? You wouldn’t be nervous?

Dmitry Orlov: Well, you never know until you try, but I would like to.

Igor Kleyner: Here is another matter that draws a lot of attention: how are your language skills progressing? It seems that out there on the ice you are feeling a bit more comfortable with English, when the players huddle around the coach, you seem to understand and follow the instructions much better.

Dmitry Orlov: Yes, I agree. There has definitely been progress. I have English lessons with a teacher three times a week at the hotel [where I am staying]. We work on hockey-related language, and just regular everyday English as well. So I think my English will be getting better, and I already understand a lot — most of what the coaches say to me, what they want to see from me. It’s already getting easier for me. Yes, sometimes I still get stuck when I want to say something, but I am beginning to understand, which is more important.

Igor Kleyner: Last time we talked, you mentioned Rosetta Stone. Are you still using it?

Dmitry Orlov: Yeah, but for me studying with a tutor works better.

Igor Kleyner: Speaking of Rosetta Stone, turns out you are not the only one in the Capitals organization that uses it — apparently Mr. Leonsis has been a customer, as well as a member of the board of the company. He mentioned in the past that he was using Rosetta Stone to learn Russian so he can talk to his star players in their mother tongue.

Dmitry Orlov: [Interrupting] Russian?! Well, maybe we need to have a bet on who is going to progress faster!

Igor Kleyner: The other day, Sasha Semin surprised everybody by giving an English language interview

Dmitry Orlov

Orlov, manning the point in a Development Camp scrimmage, looks for an open man in the slot. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)

Dmitry Orlov: Yes, I know, I saw it!

Igor Kleyner: Would you like to follow your teammate’s example and say a few words in English for your fans?

Dmitry Orlov: No, no, I am not ready for that yet! But I am learning! So as soon as I am ready, I’ll try.

Igor Kleyner: What is the one thing you miss the most from Russia?

Dmitry Orlov: Well, I have been here for a month and a half now. I miss my parents, my girlfriend — it’s hard to be away from them. But I stay in touch all the time. It is my life. It’s hockey. Sometimes you have to be away from your family, and there’s nothing you can do about it. But I hope they will be able to come here soon. Everything depends on me though. I need to make it here first, and then I can start planning to bring the family over.

Igor Kleyner: A question that is difficult to ask, and probably even more difficult for you to address: the tragedy in Yaroslavl. There were two guys on that plane who you knew well, your teammates from WJC [Urychev and Sobchenko].

Dmitry Orlov: Yes, I actually knew more than just those two. When I found out, I was just in shock. It’s difficult to talk about. I would just like to express my condolences to the families. It’s also a gigantic loss for hockey. They were just such good guys. May they rest in peace [in Russian: may the soil be as soft as a down feather for them].

Igor Kleyner: Towards the end of the practice, I noticed that your Hershey teammate and heavyweight Joel Rechlicz was tutoring another young player (David de Kastrozza), giving him a few pointers about fighting. How about yourself — have you ever thought of trying to learn a few fighting tricks, just in case?

Dmitry Orlov: No, I haven’t, but you know, it’s hockey, fights do happen. Maybe in the future I should ask for a few lessons. You always have to be prepared for anything. You never know what can happen in a game, and if you are in a situation like that — you don’t want to look like a coward, and you don’t want to get your lights punched out, so you need to have some skills.

Orlov, #9 in white, drops the gloves in a January 10, 2010 KHL match against Amur.

Igor Kleyner: It turns out there is a video of you getting involved in some fisticuffs about two years ago in Russia.

Dmitry Orlov: [laughing] Yeah, in Khabarovsk. I fought Alexander Aksenenko. The funny thing is, we happened to be on vacation together this summer. It was just a situation in the game. No big deal. It’s hockey. We quickly forgot all about it.

Igor Kleyner: Is this the only time ever you had to drop the gloves?

Dmitry Orlov: A few times as a kid, but yes since then that was the only one. I was not prepared for the fight so I lost! [laughing]

Igor Kleyner: How do you spend you free time here? What do you do for fun? I remember during Development Camp, Stan Galiev was bragging on his blog about beating you all in PlayStation.

Dmitry Orlov: Yeah, we still play. When we came here, it was a bit boring at first. Nobody was here. Then Sasha Ovechkin flew in, so we were spending time with him. It was fun. We had a few trips, went to the movies a couple of times. We had a good time. But now, the practice sessions are hard, so we try to rest as much as we can.

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