In his 6-year career in Washington, Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov has had ups and downs. He progressed from a player who makes very noticeable mistakes on the ice to one of the most important pieces on the Capitals roster. With the departures of Karl Alzner and Kevin Shattenkirk in free agency and Nate Schmidt in the expansion draft, Orlov will be relied upon to play big minutes for Barry Trotz and to mentor younger defensemen Christian Djoos, Madison Bowey, and Aaron Ness.
Orlov made his NHL debut in the 2011-12 season and played 60 games for the team that year. At the age of 20, Orlov was mostly known for his passing and playmaking ability, and he had 16 assists and 19 points that season. Orlov finished as a +1 for the year, despite giving away the puck 48 times in those 60 games. He was thrown into the deep end by then-coach Dale Hunter, logging 15:35 of ice time per night and making 99 hits. Orlov had a pretty good rookie year but unfortunately missed nearly the entire lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign with two concussions, one of them side-lining him for three months.
Orlov had a pretty good rookie year, but he missed nearly the entire lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign with two concussions, one of them side-lining him for three months.
When he returned in the 2013-14 season, Orlov started the year in Hershey, playing the first 11 games of the year there. He went on to play well for the Capitals that year, earning 3 goals and 11 points in 54 games. Though he finished the year with a -1 rating, that led Capitals defensemen who played in 35+ games. He was relied even more than his rookie year, earning an average of 19:36 worth of ice time per night. He blocked 62 shots and had 28 takeaways. Overall, Orlov bounced back nicely from the injury that limited him to 5 games in the lockout season.
Orlov got injured again and missed the entire 2014-15 campaign, but that did not prevent him from having a bounce-back year when he returned in 2015-16. Orlov enjoyed a career high in goals, with eight (3 of them game-winning goals, also a career high). Orlov’s ice time got reduced by nearly three and a half minutes from the 2013-14 season. He finished the year with a career-high 8.9 shooting percentage while playing all 82 games for the first time in his career. He also avoided the penalty box, picking up only 26 penalty minutes. Orlov was voted the Capitals’ candidate for the Masterton Award, given to the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey. He had 41 turnovers despite other solid numbers.
Capitals’ General Manager Brian MacLellan called Orlov a ‘high event player’ after the season. Orlov was also a healthy scratch for a playoff game that year and was relatively quiet in the playoffs overall, with just one power play assist and an even +/- rating. Orlov was a restricted free agent after the season, and his contract talks lingered on until after the World Cup of Hockey, where he represented Team Russia, and into training camp. He ended up signing a one-year contract worth $2.57 million.
Orlov came into the 2016-17 season with something to prove. He got an increased role, playing top-four minutes with nearly 20 minutes per game. Orlov made the most of the contract-year opportunity and was one of the most consistent Capitals’ defensemen all year long. He finished with a career-high 122 hits and increased his blocked shots numbers over 30 from the previous season. He had 34 takeaways, three shy of his career-high set in 2015-16, and he shot the puck more. Orlov finished second on the Capitals with a +30 rating behind Brooks Orpik, which was good for 6th in the league.
Orlov’s play was rewarded with a 6-year $30.5 million ($5.1 million AAV) on June 30, making it clear that Capitals management views him as a key piece for the team’s future.
Orlov still needs to decrease his penalty minutes, where he finished second on the team with 51, and his giveaway numbers, where he had a career-high with 50. Despite that, Orlov had a monster year in 2016-17 and will begin this season on the first defensive pair, riding shotgun with Matt Niskanen.
There is more optimism that Orlov can be even better in 2017-18. With the loss of Kevin Shattenkirk, Orlov could potentially see some power play time on the first unit, which would boost his scoring production. He has also been playing with the second powerplay unit during camp this preseason. If Orlov shoots the puck more and maintains his strong defensive play, he will live up to the new contract.
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By Harrison Brown