Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Dmitri Orlov's North American Debut

Me, my sign, and Dmitri Orlov (photo by Ian Oland, thank you)

Being a Spitfires fan for the past few seasons, I tend to follow former Spitfires in their careers. Adam Henrique, one of my favorite Spitfires, as well as former Spitfires captain Harry Young, were drafted by the New Jersey Devils during their time in the OHL. Both players aged out of the CHL this past season, and were assigned to the Albany Devils out of training camp.

When I saw that the Hershey Bears were playing the Devils on a Saturday at Giant Center, I bought second row tickets several months in advance.

Imagine my surprise when a week before the game, the news broke that the Capitals' 2009 second-round draft pick Dmitri Orlov was on his way to Hershey, and was expected to make his debut on the day the Bears played the Albany Devils.

Being an Orlov fan, I set about making a sign in Russian to welcome him to Hershey. He saw the sign during warmups and smiled and nodded to me, and as the game began, I put on my proverbial blogger hat and watched Orlov very closely as he made his entrance into the AHL.

It definitely was like watching a superstar in the making. Despite spending his entire career to date on Russian ice, which is larger than North American ice, Orlov didn't miss a beat and seemed completely at ease. Paired with veteran defenseman Patrick Wellar, the two were very aware of each other despite speaking different languages.

Orlov was remarkably composed and didn't many mistakes. He spent time on the power play, on the second unit, where he showed off his booming shot from the blue line. One of those attempted shots led to a Steve Pinizzotto goal -- Orlov got the secondary assist on the PPG for his first AHL point in his first game (the next day, he'd follow it up with a primary assist on a Dmitri Kugryshev goal).

Coach Mark French was also impressed with Orlov's ability to seamlessly mesh into the Bears lineup. Though obviously concerned with Orlov's shaky grasp of the English language, French insinuated that in the short-term, it wouldn't get in the way of his play, as he "seems to have a decent hockey sense" and French said he was "impressed" with how Orlov played.

Capitals General Manager George McPhee agreed, telling reporters, "We got a report from someone that was at the game who said Orlov's first period the other night was the best first period he's ever seen from a 19-year-old in the American Hockey League... We're pretty high on this player."

Today, Orlov made the switch from PTO to ELC, signing his first contract with the Capitals. Given his work ethic and performance thus far, he's well on his way to a successful North American career.

Video highlights of Orlov's debut are here.
Video of Mark French's postgame remarks is here.


Brian said...

Nice looking guy beside you, too. Haha

Zach said...

Dude! George Lucas was at the game too!