As part of our summer countdown series, CSNwashington.com Capitals Insider Chuck Gormley breaks down his Top 25 impact players for the Washington Capitals’ upcoming 2014-15 season.
No. 15: Dmitry Orlov, Defenseman
2014-15 NHL Salary: $1.75 million [$2 million cap hit]
2013-14 stats: 54 games, 3 goals, 8 assists, 11 points, minus-1, 19 penalty minutes, 19:35 average ice time
Projected 2014-15 stats: 80 games, 6 goals, 16 assists, 22 points, plus-2, 28 penalty minutes, 16:30 ice time
Analysis: The treatment of Orlov was one of the central figures in the apparent dispute between Adam Oates and George McPhee last season, with McPhee wanting the Russian defenseman in the lineup and Oates insisting he work on his defensive game before being rewarded. Maybe it was something Oates saw when he was with the Hershey Bears during the 2013 lockout, but it wasn’t until late November, after Orlov’s agent requested a trade, that Orlov finally got his chance with the Capitals. Ironically, once Orlov was inserted into the lineup he played in 54 of the Caps’ final 56 games, missing just two games with a suspension for retaliating against the Flyers’ Brayden Schenn and essentially costing the Caps two points. Orlov seemed hesitant when he returned to the lineup but regained his confidence and played well in the final two weeks of the season, recording a plus-6 in his final six games. McPhee rewarded him with a two-year, one-way contract that begins this season. NHL scouts say they love Orlov’s confidence carrying the puck but note that he can be overzealous in chasing hits. Orlov has arrived in Washington and has begun skating with Caps strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish, but a broken wrist suffered while playing for Russia in the World Championships is expected to keep him out of game action until late September or early October. Once he is cleared, it will be interesting to see what kind of impact new Capitals assistant coach Todd Reirden will have on Orlov, who has top four potential but appears to be slotted as the Caps’ sixth defenseman. If that’s the case Orlov could begin the season reunited with Mike Green, a pairing that had its ups and downs last season. The fact that Orlov could fall from being the Caps’ No. 4 defenseman to No. 6 tells you the kind of depth the Caps now have on their blue line with the additions of Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik.