“Talent develops in quiet places.”
-- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
John Carlson is the indispensable defenseman for the Washington Capitals. He is among the elite offensive defensemen in the NHL and has part of the conversation regarding Norris Trophy candidates in recent years. All of that attention has hidden the contributions of Dmitry Orlov. Over the last six seasons, Orlov is 39-132-171, plus-72, in 448 games, a 7-24-31, plus-13, scoring line per 82 games. In those six seasons he has missed only five games, all of them due to COVID protocol issues last season. And, he closed with a rush last season, going 5-13-18, plus-16, in his last 25 games and putting up points in 13 of those games, the Caps going 10-2-1 in those games.
Odd Orlov Fact… Four of Orlov’s last 11 goals, over the last two seasons, are game winners.
Odd Orlov Fact II… Orlov is not known as an especially physical player (crunching hip checks notwithstanding), but he was credited with at least one hit in 43 of 51 games last season.
Fearless’ Take… Orlov has been so under the radar over the last half dozen seasons for the Caps, you need sonar to find him. And it has enabled him to climb the charts in all-time statistical rankings among Caps defensemen. With his next point he will break a tie with Rod Langway for ninth place in career points with the Caps. He is already tenth in goals among defensemen in team history, tenth in assists, sixth in plus-minus, tied for third in overtime goals, ninth in game-winning goals, second in hits (since they were captured as a statistic in 2005-2006), fifth in blocked shots, and second in takeaways. And he has done it with remarkable consistency, especially over the last six seasons, over which his point-per-60 minutes have ranged from 0.9 to 1.3, and his points per game ranged from 0.35 to 0.43.
Cheerless’ Take… The flip side of Orlov’s consistency over the last six seasons is that he hasn’t taken a step forward. Much of that might be due to his shooting percentage falling off. He was a 7.1 percent shooter I the 2015-2016 through 2017-2018 seasons, but then it dropped off to 3.0 percent in 2018-2019 and 3.8 percent in 2019-2020. He rebounded to a career best 9.6 percent last season, but is that a sign of a return to shooting efficiency or a one-off?
Potential Milestones to Reach in 2020-2021…
- 600 career NHL games (currently 567)
- 50 career goals (45)
The Big Question… Does Orlov have a 40 point season in him?
Dmitry Orlov has never posted more than 33 points in a season, and that came back in 2016-2017. But his per game metrics suggest there might be something more there. Last season he averaged 0.43 points per game, a career best. In an 82-game season, a player would have to average 0.49 points per game to get to 40. Does Orlov have this in him? If he maintains his shooting percentage from last season and maintains his durability, it is certainly within reach. And this is not an idle exercise in pumping numbers. Orlov’s on-ice even strength goals percentage of 58.7 last season was the second best for a full season of his career (62.3 percent in 2016-2017). His scoring is a important ingredient in maintaining a scoring margin advantage.
In the end…
Teams that are successful are effective from the goal outward. A talented, consistent, durable defense is a critical element in that. Dmitry Orlov has been all of those things as he works through the prime years of his career. He has been especially effective at even strength where it counts, goals scored and goals allowed. Only once in his nine-year career has Orlov’s even strength on-ice goals for percentage been under 50 percent (49.4 percent in 2013-2014). Orlov also was responsible with the puck last season, averaging 1.78 takeaways per 60 minutes versus 1.48 giveaways per 60 minutes. What this speaks to is the development of a well-rounded defenseman who can contribute in ways not limited to goals and points. That he has done so quietly does not diminish his accomplishments, and it would be reasonable to expect that he builds on this in 2021-2022.
Projection: 82 games, 11-28-39, plus-11