Dmitri Orlov was the only Russian defenseman in development camp last week. Evgeny Kuznetsov and Stanislav Galiev impressed the hockey mavens who gathered at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex with their skillful shooting and agile skating. In the case of Orlov the general assessment was that he was a talented prospect who has yet to demonstrate his full potential. Speaking in his native Russian, Orlov appeared impressed by the bulk and physical play of some of his North American counterparts. One lesson Orlov said he had drawn from the camp was the need to work on his physical conditioning.
“If I want to play in North America I need to work on my physical training,” he said. “The guys who are playing there are really big. I need to have enough strength to play against them.”
Orlov, who will be 19 years old on July 23, was born and raised in Novokuznetsk, a small city in central Siberia. The city of some 600,000 is located in the Kemerovo coal-mining region, which burst into the news three years ago when a methane explosion in a mine killed more than 100 people.
Orlov is very much a hometown kid. He likes the easy familiarity of the town where everybody seems to know each other, he can get to the ice rink in ten minutes and the crowds turn out for hockey. Moscow’s flashy nightlife may have appeal for Alex Oveckin, but Orlov said he does not much like the bustling, crowded Russian capital.
Orlov said he was introduced to hockey by his father when he was seven years old. “I didn’t like it, and I wanted to quit,” he recalled. “But my father insisted that I stick with it.” But after playing on a team with his friends and going through a few tournaments he became devoted to the game.
“I started out on defense, “ he said. “Because I wasn’t that big I decided to try myself on offense. I played that for two years and came back to defense again, and I don’t regret it.
Orlov currently plays for the hometown team, Mettalurg Novokuznetsk, in the Kontinental Hockey League, which has given up an opportunity to play against more mature and experienced professional players, including formidable rivals from the cities of Ufa and Kazan. The Russian league, he said, is improving and has attracted some skillful players from the NHL. “The first couple of years were really hard,” he said. “Last year, I got used to it. I grew as a hockey player and my conditioning improved.”
His contract with Mettalug lasts until the end of the 2011-2012 season. But Orlov has his sights set on the NHL and is hoping that his contract with his Russian team can be bought out so he can make it to North America before then. He said he does not know Ovechkin or Alexander Semin but hopes to get acquainted with them in future training camps.
Given his limited command of English, Orlov’s closet buddies at the development camp were Kuznetsov and Galiev. He hung out with them and joined Kuznetsov in wolfing down cupcakes that were donated by a fan.
Bruce Boudreau summed up his view of Orlov on Saturday. “I think Orlov is going to be a player,” the coach said. “He‘s just got to get in better shape. He didn’t come into the camp in as good as shape as he can. But once you look at him you look for the positive stuff and he has a lot of upside on him.”
Yaroslav Maslovsky assisted with the translation.