Bruins’ Already Reaping Benefits From Orlov Addition

The Boston Bruins have had their share of memorable matchups with the Washington Capitals over the years, so fans certainly have a familiarity with Dmitry Orlov, one of the newest members of the team. He arrived in Boston the week before the trade deadline in a three-way deal that sent the Capitals a first-round pick in 2023, a second-round pick in 2025, and a third-round pick in 2024 along with Craig Smith. As part of the deal, the Minnesota Wild retained 25 percent of his salary (Washington kept 50 percent) and sent the rights to Andrei Svetlakov to Boston in exchange for a fifth-round pick in this year’s draft.

Related: Bruins Get Gritty Boost with Hathaway Trade Deadline Addition

The 31-year-old defenseman is a nice addition to the team’s weakest area, though let’s be honest, the Bruins have been strong in all three (offense, defense, goaltending) this season, contributing to their historic run. Along with his teammate Garnet Hathaway, who was acquired in the same trade, his playing style brings a certain amount of fear to the ice that will be beneficial come the playoffs.

Road to the NHL

Born July 23, 1991, in Novokuznetsk, Russia, Orlov grew up playing for the local club in his hometown. He started gaining some attention in the 2007-08 season, playing internationally for both the U17 and U18 Russian teams. He made his debut in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), the top league in Russia in his draft year, the 2008-09 season. He played 15 games for Metallurg Novokuznetsk and registered one goal and was a plus-1. He also played in seven games for the U18 team at the World Junior Championship and registered four points.

Substack Subscribe to the THW Daily and never miss the best of The Hockey Writers Banner

Orlov was selected in the second round of the 2009 NHL Entry Level Draft at 55th overall (25th pick in the round). While he was taken in the second round, he was seen as a longer-term project due to the nature of defenseman development and the instability between NHL-KHL transfer agreements. He was noted to have excellent hand-eye coordination and was a hard worker who wasn’t afraid to go into the tough areas on the ice.

In the 2010-11 season, after playing 45 games in the KHL, Orlov made the move to North America. As with most European players, it takes some time to adjust to the smaller rink size of the NHL. From the 2011-12 season through the 2014-15 season, he spent some time playing in the American Hockey League (AHL) for the Hershey Bears.

A Defensive Star is Born

Orlov had an impressive camp at the start of the 2011-12 season and was praised for his high-risk, high-reward style of play, but was ultimately sent down to the AHL (from “Capitals call up Dmitry Orlov for a ‘little shakeup’.” The Washington Post, Nov. 21, 2011). After playing his first 15 games of the season, he earned his first NHL call-up at only 20 years old, making his debut on Nov. 21, 2011, against the Arizona Coyotes, who were of course, then known as the Phoenix Coyotes. He registered his first point, an assist, in the following game on the 23rd against the Winnipeg Jets. His first NHL goal came 23 games later on Jan. 15, 2012, against the Carolina Hurricanes. He finished that season with 19 points in 60 games.

Dmitry Orlov
Dmitry Orlov, seen here with the Washington Capitals (Photo: Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Orlov missed the majority of the 2012-13 lockout-shortened season after suffering two concussions that kept him out for three months. While he managed 31 games that year in the AHL, he only saw action in five games for the Capitals. He began the 2013-14 season in Hershey, but quickly earned a call-up back to the NHL.

He missed the entirety of the 2014-15 season with an injury but returned in 2015-16 as a full-time NHL player. He was truly able to bounce back that season, registering 29 points in 81 games. Over the next several seasons, he cemented himself as one of the top blueliners for the Capitals. He is coming off the best season of his career in 2021-22 in which he had a career-high 12 goals and 35 points in 76 games. It was only the second time in his career that he reached double digits in goals.

What Orlov Brings to the Bruins

Orlov has been a sensation for the Bruins and has quickly earned himself a following amongst the fan base since his arrival at the end of February. In his first seven games as a Bruin, he has registered three goals and 10 total points, matching the three goals he had in his first 43 games of the season in Washington. Recently, he was awarded the NHL’s First Star of the Week, showcasing just how extraordinary his arrival has been.

Similar to Hathaway, Orlov brings a grittiness to the ice, one of the areas the Bruins needed to get stronger in going into the deadline. But he brings more than just that to the ice. Over the course of his NHL career, he has shown that he can play monster minutes, contribute on offense, and is responsible in his own defensive zone, overcoming some issues he had with turnovers early in his career. He is a definite upgrade to the team’s top-four defensemen.

Dmitry Orlov Boston Bruins
Dmitry Orlov, Boston Bruins (Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

In addition, the Bruins are also getting a guy who can play on special teams. The team has struggled on the power play, and currently sits ninth overall in the league behind tough playoff opponents like the Tampa Bay Lightning (second) and the Toronto Maple Leafs (third). They’re only converting 23 percent of the time, a big difference from their penalty kill, which is first in the league at 86.3 percent. With how stagnant the powerplay has been, it is no surprise that they are already testing him out. He brings a new dynamic to the top unit as well as an excellent slapshot.

Orlov may not have been who fans expected the Bruins to bring in, but it is already proving to pay off. If he can truly help get the power play going again, then the Bruins become an even greater beast than they already were. He does all the right things you want out of a defenseman, making him a great candidate to play alongside Charlie McAvoy on the top pairing on the blue line. General manager Don Sweeney really hit it out of the park with this acquisition.

Future in Boston?

Orlov is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. He signed a six-year, $30.6 million deal back in the 2017-18 season that carried an average annual value (AAV) of $5.1 million. If he continues to play as well as he is right now though, that number could go up in his next contract or stay right around where it is. At 31 years old, he has shown no signs of slowing down and should have at least a few more years in him of being a top-four defenseman. 

Related: 3 Bruins to Keep an Eye on Post Trade Deadline

As much as some Bruins fans have already expressed an interest in keeping him in Boston, it is going to be tough to do so. The team is already pretty high up against the cap and has several players with well-deserved big contracts. It is way too early to tell what will happen with Orlov, but most likely, if the team were to re-sign him, someone would have to be traded away to make room. There is a very good chance that he’d get a big payday in free agency, so fans shouldn’t be getting their hopes too high at this point. But as always, anything can happen in the NHL, so let’s see what the end of the regular season and postseason brings.