Five points and a minus-1 rating doesn't scream progress. But Dmitry Orlov's stats don't tell even half the story.
The 20-year-old Washington Capitals defenseman has quickly ingrained himself in the NHL and won't be going anywhere when defenseman Mike Green comes back from a groin injury.
"He's been great. Very steady and I like his skill, I like his hockey sense," Green said. "He's adjusted very well. He seems like a pro guy already, and he's only played a handful of games. I'm very excited to see him in the future."
Orlov looked like a pro among amateurs and kids in rookie camp and the Caps' rookie scrimmage against the Philadelphia Flyers. That wasn't surprising. Hershey Bears coach Mark French didn't hesitate when saying Orlov was his best defenseman down the stretch last season.
Expectations were high for Orlov, and he was one of the final cuts of training camp.
"He played really well when he came over, so we knew the upside was there," general manager George McPhee said the day before Orlov was sent to Hershey before the start of the season. "The issue was, how ready is he and does he need some more seasoning?"
Orlov got seasoning in the form of 15 more American Hockey League games and amassed four goals and five assists. Then he got called up Nov. 20 in the hopes he would spark a beleaguered offense.
He hasn't been the elixir, but Orlov has been a spark for the Caps and a positive influence on the blue line.
"Dmitry's been playing well for a young kid," coach Dale Hunter said. "He doesn't back down from the physicality of the game, and plus with his skill, that's what makes him a good player in this league."
The 6-foot, 210-pound Orlov's physicality comes from three summers of playing rugby in Russia.
"It is a different game, but it is also a very, very physical game, and it did help me a lot to become a more physical player and not to shy away from physical contact," Orlov said in a recent interview through an interpreter. "Just like in hockey, rugby it's an important part of the game. It did help me in two aspects: one, to become a more physically-strong person, and two, to simply be used to physical contact in the game."
If only that helps Orlov with his shot, too. He has a quick release and can get it through, but he has struggled in that department in his 18 games with the Caps.
"He shoots it hard, we've just been working on him hitting the net more," Hunter said. "You're trying to get it off quickly as you can so it doesn't get blocked. He could be rushing the shot, but hes a young kid and he'll learn because he can skate and he's a tough kid."
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