Brooks Orpik, a 33-year-old defenseman from Buffalo, New York, has spent his entire professional career playing for the Pittsburgh Penguins. After being drafted in the first round of the 2000 Draft by the Penguins (18th overall), Orpik made his debut during the 2002-03 season, seeing action in only six games that season before becoming a full-timer in the seasons that followed.
Only a marginal defenseman in his first two seasons in the professional ranks, Orpik really started to shine during the 2006-07 season, registering six points and a +4 overall. From that season, Orpik has established himself as one of the league’s premiere defenseman, averaging double-digit points per year and upwards of 200 hits per season. This play, along with his leadership on and off the ice, earned him the status of alternate captain with the Penguins.
A rugged and hard-nosed defenseman, Orpik has made a career as being a physical presence in the defensive zone, utilizing his 6-foot-2, 219 pound-frame to his advantage in separating opposing players from the puck via a steady and well-placed barrage of body checks and back-checking. Over his last seven seasons, Orpik has registered over 200 hits in five campaigns.
Despite his physical presence and play, Orpik doesn’t spend an excessive amount of time in the penalty box in comparison to his peers, only averaging around 60 minutes per year. This number has effectively been halved over the last two seasons as Orpik has become smarter and more rounded in his game.
In addition to the physical presence he brings, another plus to having Orpik in Sochi is that he’s no stranger to winning games on the biggest stages. This includes winning a Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009 and a silver medal in Vancouver with Team USA in 2010. In addition, he was part of the Boston College team that won the National Championship in 2001.
If Team USA is to be successful in their pursuit of a gold medal at the Sochi Olympics over the next couple of weeks, it will be in part due to Orpik’s leadership and defensive performance. If he can throw in a goal and a half-dozen assists, that sure wouldn’t hurt either.