Dmitry Orlov is poised for a career-year in 2021-2022. Orlov will undoubtedly post career highs in both goals and assists in the upcoming year. The 30-year-old Washington Capitals Russian defenseman got off to a rocky start in 2020-2021 after breaking the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols early in the season and winding up on the COVID-19 Unavailability List for 10 days. Upon returning, it took Orlov awhile to get his skating legs back under him. But once he did, boy did he excel.
Peter Laviolette is known for having his defensemen play an up-tempo, aggressive style that contributes to offensive production in a significant way. This is exactly the type of system that a player like Orlov will thrive in. Orlov is one of the team’s most complete defenseman. Orlov is known for his huge open-ice hits but often times, it’s taken for granted how strong of a skater he is and how talented he is offensively.
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A year ago, when Laviolette and Kevin McCarthy came to town, Orlov didn’t go unnoticed. Here’s what McCarthy, who was brought in to work with the team’s defensemen, had to say about Orlov at the time.
"“I’ve always been a big Orlov fan,” McCarthy said. “I think that he’s really a good offensive guy and I think he’s going to fit into Lavi’s system perfectly because he’s a guy that can do the things in the offensive zone that you want [done] to create [offense] and keep pucks alive and the offense going and activating and doing a lot of things that you see with the defensemen of today.”"
After a slow start, we all saw the Dmitry Orlov that McCarthy saw. Beginning in early March, Orlov exploded and never looked back. Coming into the month of March, Orlov was a non-factor. Scoring only a single goal and posting a plus-minus rating of –3. By all accounts, he was not good. Then came March and the return of his Bengal cat named Joy.
Orlov totaled 6 points (3 goals and 3 assists) and posted a +6 rating in March. Then, he just kept getting better. Through April and the beginning of May (when the regular season ended), Orlov posted 4 goals and added 11 assists. When all was said and done, Orlov finished the season with 22 points (8 goals and 14 assists) and a +16 rating. In only 51 games, Orlov only missed tying his career-high in goals by 2 and had the second highest plus-minus of his career.
Under Laviolette, a season ago, Orlov had one of the most offensive-heavy deployments in his career. 58 percent of his zone starts were offensive, compared to his career-average of 51.7. A Corsi For percentage of 53 (compared to a career-average of 51.5) showed that with Orlov on the ice, the Capitals controlled play. These strong possession metrics are even more impressive when you look at how mightily he struggled through roughly a quarter of the games he played in last season. Next season, the coaching staff will surely continue to put Orlov in situations where he can control play and create offense. Combine that with experience in Laviolette’s system, a more normal off-season and with a full 82-game slate for 2021-2022, don’t be surprised if Dmitry Orlov scores 15 goals and approaches 40 assists.