On Sunday evening when the Capitals host the Chicago Blackhawks in their preseason finale they will take another long look at Dmitry Orlov, who expected to appear in a fourth exhibition game.
Earlier this week, Coach Bruce Boudreau tried to calm assumptions that the 20-year-old Russian might start the year in Washington but with Orlov set to appear once more the question arises again. On Saturday, General Manager George McPhee insisted that the Capitals have not yet made a decision as to where Orlov will begin his first full season in North America.
“We want to watch him again [Sunday] night and then we’ll make some decisions [Sunday] night or Monday,” McPhee said. “He’s played well enough and when someone’s playing that well you want to keep watching him and learn as much as you can about him -- Is he ready to play here?
“He seems to be getting better with every game and we’ll see how it goes,” McPhee continued. “We haven’t made a decision there but we sure like what we have in the player and he deserves to play another game.”
According to the roster the Capitals released this morning, Orlov will be in the mix against Chicago while Jeff Schultz will not.
With John Erskine still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, Washington has only six, healthy NHL defensemen at its disposal. The Capitals could choose to keep Orlov around or possibly recall another defenseman from the AHL like Sean Collins or Patrick McNeill.
If it were Orlov, though, the question remains whether limited minutes in Washington or significant time in Hershey would best aid his progress. In recent years, the Capitals preferred to see defensemen develop and add extra seasoning in the AHL with Hershey. Mike Green, John Carlson, Karl Alzner and Jeff Schultz all spent considerable time with the Bears before joining the Capitals on a permanent basis.
As is to be expected, McPhee didn’t tip his hand when asked about Orlov’s progress and whether he would like to see the young defenseman spend time in the AHL or learn on the fly in Washington. McPhee echoed the thoughts of Boudreau and Bears Coach Mark French in saying that Orlov has things to learn about playing defense in North America, but added that he’s been impressed by Orlov’s maturity, confidence and eagerness to embrace responsibility.
“What we like most about him is when the game is on the line he wants to be out there, that’s important,” McPhee said. “He showed it to us that first game in Philadelphia, the rookie game, where he really started to take over and I thought he was our best defenseman in Nashville the other night…..He seems like a real character kid, he deserves to be watched again.”
So for those attending the final exhibition contest this evening, if you’re keeping an eye on Orlov you won’t be the only one.
“We just want to make sure that we do it right,” McPhee said. “He’s going to be a good NHL player and if it’s not right away it’s soon.”