When prospect Dmitry Kugryshev returned to Russia to play in the KHL, concerns arose about how the absence of a fellow countryman and defacto translator would impact Dmitry Orlov, who is gradually learning English.
But as rookie camp progresses at KCI this week, Hershey Bears coach Mark French isn’t worried about Orlov, the 20-year-old defenseman who draws comparisons to John Carlson and impressed the Capitals’ brass so thoroughly with his North American debut in the AHL last year.
“I think it's probably better cold turkey for him, so he's forced to fully immerse himself in the English language might be better for him, instead of using a counterpart who speaks Russian as a bit of a crutch,” French said.
“It's an uncomfortable feeling for a coach when you don't know if the message is truly getting to the player,” French said. “I think this year, with Washington making the commitment to get him some English lessons in the summer and into the fall, I think that'll be a big part of his development with the full grasp of the English language.”
Both French and Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau pinpointed language as arguably the most difficult hurdle for Orlov to overcome at this point, but that doesn’t alter how much he stands out on the ice among other young prospects.
Already a sizable presence for his age at 6 feet, 197 pounds, Orlov arrived in Washington, along with fellow prospect Stanislav Galiev, to train with strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish. It was a decision that speaks to his drive to reach the NHL, coaches say, and willingness to seek out instruction.
“What's good about [him] is the attitude of just wanting to improve, wanting to get there quicker and not being satisfied with what I can do at home,” Nemish said. “When you have the comforts of home, and kind of getting out of that comfort zone and kind of taking the initiative of, 'I'm going to come here early, I'm going to work my butt off, I'm going to make some sacrifices and do whatever I can to get in that position.' It's not just with the training, but it's learning English and all of those things to get him on the fast track of being a more well-rounded, developed professional.”
While there may not be a spot for Orlov on the NHL roster when the season starts, it would hardly be surprising to see him in Washington at some point if the Capitals are in need of a call-up.
Orlov turned heads upon joining Hershey last season after the conclusion of his KHL season and racked up nine points in 19 regular season AHL games. French said that once Orlov arrived “he clearly was our most skilled defenseman in Hershey” and that he possesses the same type of confident swagger on the ice that John Carlson does. But while Orlov’s skill is unquestioned, the next step involves working to create a more well rounded game.
“I think he's got to refine some of his game to become a better defensive defenseman,” French said. “That will never be his calling card, but I think to play at the next level, he's got to get more comfortable with defending in a number of areas.”