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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Dmitry Orlov

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,’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.

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Dmitri Orlov during warm-ups in his first pro game with the Hershey Bears

Photo credit: Ian Oland

In the Hershey Bears 4-3 win over the Albany Devils on Saturday night, teenage Caps prospect Dmitri Orlov impressed during his first game in North America. Not only did he register a point in his AHL debut, his first period of play was so solid that he even inspired the normally reserved Tim Leone to exclaim,”that’s the best first 20 minutes from a 19-year-old D I’ve ever seen in this league.

For Caps fans who are frustrated with Washington’s once potent but now sputtering power play, Orlov’s accelerated development is nothing short of fantastic news. Hershey’s bench boss Mark French, encouraged by how much Dima seamlessly blended into Hershey’s lineup in the opening minutes, rode his hot hand using the Novokuznetsk, Russia native on the second power play unit later in the game. Orlov responded by unleashing several booming slap shots at Albany netminder Mike McKenna and eventually collected an assist on Steve Pinizzotto’s second period power play goal.

Speaking to the media after Monday’s trades, Capitals General Manager George McPhee had nothing but praise for Orlov: “We’re pretty high on this player. He’s a mobile puck moving defenseman,” McPhee said. “Really good on the power play… he’s got an edge to him. He can hit and play tough. And he really wants to be here.”

RMNB’s own Igor Kleyner caught up with Orlov after his first pro game Saturday to discuss the Bears, the AHL and yes, even Evgeny Kuznetsov’s wedding. Below the jump, we offer the translation of his conversation.

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Semyon Varlamov during practice at Giant Center

All photos by Kyle M. of our Hershey Blog, Sweetest Hockey On Earth

Semyon Varlamov returned to the U.S. on August 1st, a full month and a half before training camp began. Varly’s intention was to get his body in optimal shape for the upcoming season after losing several months to a groin injury last year.  Success would be three-fold: avoid injury, become Washington’s number-one goaltender, and get better acquainted with Caps fans.

Despite tough training work, a commendable effort, and some true blogging prowess, the first two months of the season have been a complete disaster for Semyon (except for maybe that awesome Caps Convention commercialCLICK ON ME!!!).

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Bieber-Mania hits the Bears lockerroom.

Bieber-Mania hits the Bears lockerroom.

After losing the first two games of the Calder Cup Finals at home, the Hershey Bears are now one win away from raising the Calder Cup for the eleventh time in club history, and in back-to-back years. Holy Schnikes!!

What stands in their way? A Texas Stars team that is “trying to stay positive.” Yeah. (It’s like they finally realized who they were playing against.)

But despite Hershey’s 3 game sweep of Texas at Cedar Park Center, the Stars can still draw confidence off Games 1 and 2 where they frustrated the AHL’s highest scoring team. Which Bears team will show up Monday for Game 6? The one that tried to play fancy, stick around the perimeter and let it’s emotions get the best of them, or the one that played simple, went hard to the net and kept its cool?

Today, Hershey held a 45-60 minute practice at Giant Center and Bears first line center Keith Aucoin hoped it was the latter:

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Above: Chris Bourque skies in the air to keep the puck on his stick. Top: Bourque and Andrew Gordon celebrate the GWG. (Photos by Chris Knight, The Patriot-News)

Above: Chris Bourque skies in the air to keep the puck on his stick. Top: Bourque and Andrew Gordon celebrate the GWG. (Photos by Chris Knight, The Patriot-News)

After an absolutely dreadful start which saw the Bears take a 3-1 deficit into the first intermission, even the most optimistic of Bears fans would have thought that the chances of Hershey coming back in this series were slim. But Head Coach Mark French showed confidence in his players and made the necessary adjustments. He allowed Michal Neuvirth to return in net for the second period, despite witnessing last year’s playoff MVP flub a clearing attempt on a first-period powerplay. Neuvy’s whiff led to Texas’s second goal of the night, an unassisted short-handed goal by Francis Wathier. French then subtlety tinkered with his forward combinations promoting Chris Bourque to the top line and dropping the 2008-09 AHL MVP, Alexandre Giroux, to the second. It paid immediate dividends.

Hershey went on to score five unanswered goals, punctuated by two third period tallies by Andrew Gordon which included the eventual game-winning goal. The Hershey Bears win 6-3. The high-octane offense has returned!
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Semyon Varlamov Rehabs with the Hershey Bears

Hershey's Mathieu Perreault celebrates his Hat Trick Goal (Photo by: Sean Simmers, The Patriot-News) (Photo Above: RMNB Correspondent Kyle M)

Hershey's Mathieu Perreault celebrates his Hat Trick Goal (Photo by: Sean Simmers, The Patriot-News) (Photo Above: RMNB Correspondent Kyle M)

First, it was his groin. Then after a rehab start on January 3rd with the Hershey Bears – a start in which Oskar Osala crashed into him while he was in net – it was his knee. And now after another long month on the shelf, Washington Capitals number one goaltender Semyon Varlamov is finally healthy again. Varly returned between the pipes today as the Hershey Bears took on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at Giant Center.

Varlamov made 26 saves in a thrilling 5-4 Bears victory, but gave up three goals in the first period – two of which were softies and likely would have been stopped if he were at the top of his game. After the first period however, Varlamov settled in, much like the rest of his teammates. How bad was the first period though? The Bears got outshot 17-4.

Anyways, thanks to a hat track by Mathieu Perreault and a game winning goal by everyone’s-favorite-minor-league-defender Bryan Helmer, Hershey went on to win it’s 17th straight game at home, 5-4. At this point, the Bears have won 10 straight and 22 of 23 overall. That’s crazy.

When asked about Varlamov’s performance after today’s game, Bears Head Coach Mark French had this to say: “I thought [Varly] got better as the game wore on. I don’t know what the game plan is. As far as I know, his health throughout the game was fine.” (Quote via Tim Leone of the The Patriot-News)

So yes Caps fans, Semyon Varlamov is one step closer to returning to the Big Club and also another step closer to joining Team Russia as it’s Third Goalie on the Olympic Roster (THANKS A LOT LISA HILLARY). Varly had no setbacks in today’s gamel! Yes, everything seems to be right in the world once again. Special thanks to Kyle M. for the photos and the report.

Below the jump check out some more photos of Varlamov wearing his new mask!
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