It’s hard to be too outraged about Dmitry Orlov not making the Capitals. Going into camp, there seemed just about no chance of the 20-year-old defenseman sticking around.
Where would he fit? Who would he pass on the depth chart? What would it take?
Ultimately those questions were answered that he doesn’t fit in because he couldn’t pass anyone. And it likely would have taken a more consistent preseason for Orlov.
But he was one of the final cuts, which is not surprising given what everyone around the Caps had to say about him Sunday and Monday. Coach Bruce Boudreau called Orlov’s final exhibition game “mediocre” while general manager George McPhee, in an interview with The Washington Times, wondered if the young Russian needed more seasoning.
“It was just flashes – flashes of his talent. That you’re willing to say, ‘OK, listen, we have to take another look at this guy.’ There’s also flashes of, there’s things he needs to learn,” Boudreau said. “You get caught between the ‘Wow, that looks really good’ – between that and ‘Wow, he needs time to understand the game a little bit better.”
Mike Knuble credited Orlov for coming over to North America last season to adjust to a smaller rink and “culture shock” that comes with leaving your home country at that young age. Also, Knuble said, Orlov plays with confidence that usually isn’t present for 20-year-olds.
But while Orlov saw time on the power play and on the penalty kill in the preseason – and showed real physicality in his game – he couldn’t stay consistent.
“His first game he struggled, his second game was really good, [Sunday vs. Chicago] he was mediocre,” Boudreau said. “Every game is a game-by-game assessment, sort of, with the young guys, anyway. That comes in with the consistency, and at this level, you have to bring your A-game every night – or at least nine out of 10 nights.”
Orlov’s potential was obvious to anyone who watched him in the rookie game or during his Caps preseason cameo. The 6-foot, 197-pound defenseman played bigger than that, not afraid to jump up into the play or throw his body around.
And while Orlov’s preseason was full of mistakes of youth, the Caps weren’t surprised at his impressive play.
“He didn’t surprise us because when he came over last year he played really well in Hershey,” McPhee said. “In fact, someone had mentioned that it was the best performance by a 19-year-old defenseman that they’d ever seen in the American League.”
Orlov, at least for now, will get a chance to reprise his role as an AHL defenseman, even as Boudreau said he’s an NHL player. But the organization had Mike Green, Karl Alzner and John Carlson – three other blue-chip defensemen – spend significant time with the Bears.
For Orlov to play at least a few more games there doesn’t seem like a bad idea, either.
“He’s growing up. He’s young and he have to learn more,” Alex Ovechkin said. “I think he make mistakes, but I think for guy like him, he learns. Coaches talk with him all the time. He has a future in our organization and I think if something happens, I think he’s ready to go.”