The Spartak’s blueliner is doing his best to earn a spot on the KHL team roster.
Defenseman Daniil Orlov was born and taught to skate in Elektrostal, a center of heavy machinery manufacturing. He moved to Balashikha in 2015 and then joined Sakhalinskie Akuly. Orlov made his JHL debut on Sakhalin, spent two seasons there and scored 47 (18+29) points in 112 games. He became the first player of Akuly to receive a call-up to the Russian national team. The defenseman moved to Spartak in the summer of 2022 and in his first season managed to play in three leagues: he became the leader of the junior team defense, won the Petrov Cup with Khimik and appeared in 14 KHL games. Daniil is spending the 2023/24 season with the first team and shares the locker room with the people whose games he used to watch on TV.
In an interview with the official JHL website, Daniil Orlov talked about the first team, the Petrov Cup, his soccer idol, mentality and understanding of the world.
– How can you evaluate the start of the season for you personally?
– I focused on preparing for the first team. We had a good training camp, the new coaching staff joined the team and they prescribe a different line of action, but our main goal remains the same - raising the Gagarin Cup. Compared to the 2022/23 season, coping with the workload was easier for me in terms of understanding that I was in the KHL.
– On the evening of September 8, you played for Spartak in the KHL, and the very next day you were helping the junior team in an afternoon game. Tell us about that experience.
– I didn’t have much ice time in the game against Admiral. After the game, the team administrator approached me and said that Alexei Yuryevich Zhamnov talked with the junior team coach and Nikita Susuyev and I were expected to join the JHL team so that we stay in game shape. The following KHL game was scheduled for September 12, so I saw no problem about that. I spent almost half an hour on the ice in that game, helped the team, and finally managed to score a goal. I don’t remember how long my goal drought was.
– Do you feel fine after 28 minutes of ice time in a game?
– That particular game was pretty tough for me, since I don’t get that much ice time in the first team, but being on the ice, one always wants to play with the puck, prove himself and it leads to accumulated fatigue. When I was with Sakhalinskie Akuly, I averaged almost the same ice time, maybe a couple of minutes less, so it was not a new experience for me. I missed having that much of ice time. But it had been a while since I played 28 minutes per night, so I did have heavy legs after that game.
– How do you deal with your emotions? Do you read any psychology books?
– I always want my performance to be perfect. I demand a lot from myself, so I try to ensure that every pass is accurate and well-timed, and that every shot reaches the net. Any mistake makes me think that I underperformed. Books are good helpers that can give knowledge and help, but one must sort himself out first.
– You mentioned that joining the rush had not been your strong point with the first team. Do you now feel more comfortable playing in the offensive zone?
– Yes, I have become more confident. I have been working with coaches on offensive blue-line options year in and out. I am able to surprise opponents in some episodes. But defense still goes first, because I am a defenseman. Of course, joining the rush, scoring and assisting on goals is great, but I must stop opponents from scoring in the first turn.
– Does the fact that you haven’t scored any goals at adult level puts pressure on you?
– Well, yes, it’s a bummer. I had a chance to score in the VHL playoff final against Sokol. We played in Krasnoyarsk, I shot from the blue line, everyone thought it was a goal. While the puck hit both posts in turns, moved along the goal line and never crossed it. When I scored my first point in the new KHL season in the game against Kunlun, Vanya Morozov dished a pass for me to shoot the open corner. I somehow sent the puck to the trapper, and then we rebounded it. Apparently, I really need to concentrate on other things, because I keep longing for goals while I need to be focused on defense.
– You were selected by the New Jersey Devils in the fourth round of the 2022 NHL Draft. Was that ceremony important for you?
– To be honest, it was extremely important for me. After my first season on Sakhalin, I got contacted by several scouts. I was told that I had a chance of being drafted, and what is more, being picked pretty high. But everything depended on my performance. By that time, I had done pretty well during my first JHL season. I hadn’t scored too many points, but the level of the League was really high. Guys born in 2000 played against us. During the following season, I talked to so many scouts, a number of teams called me. If my memory serves me right, there were only eight NHL clubs out of 32 I didn’t talk to. I think I could have been picked higher, but there were different subtle aspects: I talked to all the scouts in Russian assisted by an interpreter, because I was embarrassed about my English, even though I am pretty fluent in it. Now, when I play NHL video games with guys, I always choose New Jersey. After all, it’s the club that believed in my potential.
– What were the things that made scouts concerned?
– My answers to their questions were non-trivial. For example, during a conversation with one of the clubs, I was asked the following: “If you and your girlfriend are harassed on the street, will you run away or try to talk to them?” My response was, “I’ll just start fighting.” They were surprised, but this is what Elektrostal teaches you. It is a small city, running away is not an option, they will still find you if they want to. I used to fight a lot when I was a school student, I even lost a tooth in a fight, now I have an implant instead of that missing tooth. I had a normal childhood, it’s just that not everyone liked me and it was mutual.
– Were you often contacted by New Jersey representatives during the 2022/23 season?
– We do keep in touch. I have a Russian representative and a development scout who watches every game I play, makes notes and explains the things that can be improved. When I perform poorly or well, they give it to me straight. I think one should become a player of a different caliber before going to the NHL.
– You graduated from school with a gold medal. Was it hard to balance professional sport with studying?
– It wasn’t hard at all. I was a straight-A student at elementary and secondary school. Should I get a C, I would anticipate seeing dissatisfied mom at home. My father was more loyal; he knew that grades do not reflect the true level of knowledge. When I was a senior, teachers were easier on me. There was one season when I played for 2001, 2002 and 2003 teams and I was really tired and could fall asleep in class despite good night's sleep. Being an eleventh-grader was pretty tough, since I played on Sakhalin and wasn’t able to attend classes, so I was only doing my homework.
– If you could meet any person, past or present, who would it be and what would you ask him or her?
– I will name two people: Wayne Rooney and Warren Buffett. As for the first one, even simply sitting next to him would be great, and for Buffett’s part, I would ask him about his roadmap to success.
Orlov Daniil Romanovich
Born on December 21, 2003 in Elektrostal
2012-2016 – Kristall, Elektrostal
2016-2020 – Olimpiets, Balashikha
2020-2022 – Sakhalinskie Akuly, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk
From 2021 – Spartak, Moscow
Petrov Cup winner (2022/23)