The Washington Capitals defender has played in 16 straight games after missing the first 26 games of the season due to a series of recalls and healthy scratches, according to Katie Carrera of The Washington Post.
This prolonged absence from the lineup prompted Orlov's agent, Mark Gandler, to demand a trade on Nov. 27, according to Chuck Gormley of CSNWashington.com. At the time, Gandler said his client "has no future in Washington whatsoever, zero chance for him. I think his value as a player is diminishing with every day and the team is losing valuable time and also ruining his career.”
That reality has begun to change.
All it took was for Orlov to be inserted into the lineup on a regular basis. Orlov has quickly ascended to fourth among Capitals' defensemen in time on ice per game at 19 minutes and 31 seconds, and he is tied for second in average time on ice per shift at 0:56. With this significant ice time, Orlov has scored one goal and notched one assist with a minus-one rating and four penalty minutes.
With the apparent lack of statistical evidence, conclusions about Orlov's play must instead be drawn through the use of visual evidence. Hockey fans who have witnessed Orlov and his teeth-rattling hits, kamikaze offensive rushes and supersonic blasts from the point may have noticed a similarity between this young Russian and another NHL defender:
That's right, PK Subban. The 24-year-old defenseman for the Montreal Canadiens.
You may think it unwise to compare a player who has 22 points in 81 regular-season games over three NHL seasons with a player who has 147 points in 246 regular season games over five NHL seasons. That includes 33 points in all 44 games this season.
But there are similarities.
For starters, both players are exactly six feet tall. Orlov weighs in at 210, while Subban is slightly heavier at 217 pounds.
Next, the scouting reports for each player reveal a striking resemblance between these two rear guards.
|Dmitry Orlov Scouting Report|
|Assets:||Is mobile, aggressive and displays all-around ability from the back end. Can put up solid offensive numbers and play a physical game from the back end. Is adept at hitting opponents in open ice.|
|Flaws:||Needs to read the play better, so as to not get caught out of position too often. His aggressiveness can also be a negative while on the ice, so he could use more refinement. Isn't a power-play QB.|
|Career Potential:||All-round defenseman with good upside.|
|The Hockey News|
And now Subban:
|PK Subban Scouting Report|
|Assets:||Has outstanding skating ability and excels at rushing up ice with the puck. Can quarterback a power play and also initiate a lot of contact. Displays a flair for the dramatic. Shoots the puck with aplomb and also gets under opponents' skin. Is adept at playing a shutdown role.|
|Flaws:||Needs to simplify his game, since he tends to run around in his own end at times. Also tries to do too much with the puck. On-ice antics may at times annoy his own teammates and the coaching staff. Could stand to become a bit more disciplined on the ice (and in the dressing room).|
|Career Potential:||Talented, flashy all-round defenseman with big upside.|
|The Hockey News|
Anyone critical of this comparison will quickly point out the one glaring difference between these two players: the ability to quarterback a power play.
The season statistics bear that out. Orlov has less total power-play time on ice (3:27) than Subban averages in power-play time on ice per game (4:30). For their careers, Orlov has three points on the power play while Subban has 55, according to Hockey-Reference.com.
But Orlov is the type of player who would be useful on a power play, even if not as the quarterback. He can expedite puck retrievals, execute one-man entries into the offensive zone and unleash a booming slap shot. All three assets are invaluable to a power play. If he is ever given a regular gig on the man advantage, Orlov could begin to reach the same goal and assist outputs as Subban.
Power plays aside, the similarities between this pair will become more apparent if one investigates a series of statistics from the 2013-14 season for each player, extrapolating them on a per-game basis and a 60-minute basis:
|2013-14 Real-Time Stats: Dmitry Orlov vs. PK Subban|
|CATEGORY||ORLOV||PER GAME||PER 60:00||SUBBAN||PER GAME||PER 60:00|
|Time On Ice||312:28||19:31||60:00||1,112:18||25:16||60:00|
Over a 60-minute period, we see some interesting trends.
Orlov is actually better than Subban in the categories of giveaways and takeaways, while also spending less time in the penalty box.
Not surprisingly, Subban significantly outshoots the Capitals defender, caused primarily by Subban's advantage in time spent on the power play.
Finally, speaking to the similar physicality and defensive instincts of these two young men, hits and blocked shots are almost identical.
If given the same ice time and responsibilities as Subban, Orlov will continue to show how he is the second coming of the Toronto native. After all, Orlov has already shown that "he is a top-end skater with skill and a big shot, and he could be a top-four defenseman soon if he gets back on track," according to Corey Pronman of Hockey Prospectus on Sept. 9.
To truly be the next PK Subban for the Washington Capitals, however, Dmitry Orlov will have to complete three specific tasks:
Let's call that a "PK Subban Hat Trick."
Note: All statistics updated through Jan. 7 courtesy of NHL.com unless noted otherwise.