It’s not easy to be a young defenseman in the NHL, let alone one who has strong offensive instincts and must learn how to balance the two traits like Capitals’ rookie Dmitry Orlov.
Defenseman sometimes need to play several years in the league before they grow comfortable in their own identity, whether as a two-way defenseman or more of an offensive or defensive minded blueliner. That process is something that Mike Green is quite familiar with.
Green has skated with Orlov regularly in practice since returning from his strained right groin muscle and understands what his younger teammate is working through. So far, the two-time Norris Trophy finalist has been impressed by Orlov’s composure.
“It will take some time to get to his full potential but he’s really been great. He’s been very steady,” Green said. “He seems to know a little more, or at least he’s been told a little more, how they want him to play and find that balance….At a young age, it’s all about finding that balance and knowing while you’re going to make those rookie mistakes you’ve just got to showcase what you can do and help the team. He’s doing that.”
Ask pretty much any member of the Capitals’ coaching staff or anyone on the roster about Orlov’s heavy shot and you’ll likely get the same answer: If only he could get it on net. That’s one of the reasons why at the end of practices it’s a regular occurrence to see Orlov taking point shot after point shot on net.
Even Orlov’s fellow countryman Alex Ovechkin offered the rookie blueliner some tips. “I tell him sometimes when you shoot on net, sometimes shoot maybe wrist shot — not slap shot,” Ovechkin said. “He have a slap shot and wrist shot that both very hard it goes so fast. One day it goes in he’s going to score one or two goals.”
The Capitals are pleased with Orlov’s development thus far – his ice time and regular spot in the lineup are both evidence of that – and according to assistant coach Jim Johnson the team believes as time progresses his offensive ability will begin to show itself more.
“The offensive side of it will come as he gets more comfortable,” said Johnson, who encourages Orlov to jump in the play as long as it’s the correct decision at that moment. “As long as he does it without risking turning the puck over at inopportune times – that’s something we’ve worked on with him. It’s been a little more difficult for him playing the off side and learning how to pull that puck off the wall and get it on to his forehand quicker. That’s played a role, I’ve really been working with him on that and he’s getting better with it.”
For more on Orlov check out the story from today’s paper on the Capitals’ 20-year-old defenseman.