As Dmitry Orlov bounces back and forth between the AHL and NHL through the first month and a half, there’s no indication as to when the defensive prospect might appear in a game with the Capitals.
Washington reassigned Orlov to the Hershey Bears on Wednesday so that he could play in their game at the Charlotte Checkers. While the 22-year-old Russian spent the bulk of the past two weeks on the NHL roster, he’s been a healthy scratch in each of the seven Capitals’ contests that occurred during that span.
“I guess the question is, who do you pull out right now?” General Manager George McPhee said. “Because they’re playing pretty good. All the guys on the left side are playing well.
“He’s in a difficult spot but that doesn’t mean we don’t think he’s a terrific player and he’s going to be a good one,” McPhee added. “I don’t want to be pulling him back and forth. He deserves to be here, but if he’s not playing, the beauty is Hershey’s close we can get a couple games in and keep him sharp and bring him right back.”
Orlov, a 2009 second-round pick, is in the final year of his entry-level contract, making this is a critical season for his future trajectory with the Capitals.
The left side of Washington’s defensive depth chart took a hit in the opening month of the season when Jack Hillen (fractured tibial plateau) and then John Erskine (upper body) were placed on long-term injured reserve. Orlov was passed over when the Capitals initially needed defensemen, though, because he was out with pink eye. Washington turned to Alex Urbom, who was picked up off waivers from New Jersey, and recalled Nate Schmidt from the Bears. They’ve been in the lineup for eight and 15 consecutive games, respectively.
Their emergence in the regular lineup left Orlov on the bubble. He’s played in only six games so far this season, all with Hershey, and is tied for a team-best eight points with two goals and six assists.
“He’s played really well, he’s been our best player in Hershey. He’s been scoring and I feel the same way about him that I did about [Karl] Alzner and [John] Carlson at one point, where if we get banged up, I’m looking forward to watching them play because I think they can step in and we don’t miss a beat,” McPhee said. “The trouble is that group back there has been playing well. We believe he’ll get his chance. We like him a lot. He’s a good player, I really like the way he’s playing this year.”
Mike Green, a right handed shot, missed Wednesday’s practice and is questionable for Friday’s game at the Detroit Red Wings. Coach Adam Oates always prefers to have players skating on their strong side, so it seems unlikely if Green misses time that Orlov would find a spot in the lineup.
But in speaking generally about the left, right shot philosophy, McPhee said that while he agrees with Oates’s approach to keep players on their strong side that won’t always be possible.
“We’re not so fixated on it that we’re not going to give somebody an opportunity or have a right handed guy playing on the left side. We’re going to do that if its necessary,” McPhee said. “You’re not going to have the ideal 100 percent of the time.”