Washington Capitals blueliner Dmitry Orlov has cemented his role as a top-pairing defenseman. Can he elevate to the role of a No. 1 next season?
The Russian was a key piece of the puzzle on the Capitals’ defense corps last season. He also took on much more responsibility on offense, something that improved majorly under Peter Laviolette.
Through 51 games, he registered eight goals and 22 points, which would have translated to a career-high 12 goals and 33 points in a regular 82-game season. Orlov also tied Carlson for goals at 5-on-5. He became more confident in his shooting, boasting a personal-best shot percentage (9.64) and the second-highest shots-through percentage of his career (50.6). In addition, Orlov registered a +/- rating of 16, which ranks second over the course of his nine-year career.
“Orls is a heck of a player,” former teammate Brenden Dillon said of No. 9. “He’s someone who can create offense, he’s pretty physical… I’m happy he’s played this well [in 2020-21].”
At 5-on-5, the 30-year-old was also first in expected goals-for percentage (34.37) and shots-for percentage (51.97). With Orlov on the ice, Washington generated several shots and opportunities on the forecheck. He even ranked higher than John Carlson in goals-for percentage (59.49, second behind Justin Schultz by .51), scoring chances-for percentage (52.14) and high-danger goals-for percentage (52.50).
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Overall, Orlov was able to expand his game on offense greatly last season. He even had a five-game point streak in April. He noted that having his family and cat return to D.C. helped boost his morale — and in turn play — but he also put in the work and showed great drive and determination on the ice.
On the other side of the puck, Orlov also proved vital. He had just 25 giveaways, the lowest of his career, and also led all Capitals blueliners with at least 21 GP with a Corsi-for percentage of 52.02. Orlov’s 30 takeaways also ranked first on the team.
Laviolette also noted later in the season that Orlov had been playing “excellent” defense and making strides toward being a major difference-maker on the forecheck.
While Carlson has been the main driver of offense and leader in TOI/game among blueliners over the last few seasons, Orlov is close behind. He’s making a major impact at both ends of the ice and shows great defensive awareness to boot. With Dillon gone, Michal Kempny likely drawing back in after a season off and Martin Fehervary expected to make the NHL jump, expect Orlov to take on a bigger role as a mentor and leader this season, especially on the left side.