Washington Capitals general manager George McPhee said it best Monday, on opening day of the Caps summer development camp, "I think all our positions are filled and we have good depth and we're ready to go."

Coach Bruce Boudreau agreed.  "There's not a lot of holes to fill. There might be that one hole right now."

That "one hole" Boudreau referred to is his third line center.  As the NHL roster sits right now, it would be most likely filled with Brooks Laich, re-signed earlier this summer to a six-year contract.  But this development camp really boils down to two young, talented players getting a chance to show the Caps that one of them should fill that spot and push Laich back to a wing position.

Those two players are Cody Eakin and Matthias Sjogren.

Eakin, a 20-year old native of Winnipeg, is generously listed on the Caps development roster at 5'11", 179.  Sjogren, a 23-year old from Sweden, is 6'1", 210.  Eakin is participating in his third development camp.  Sjogren, who just signed a few weeks ago, his first.  Eakin has built his resume on speed and offensive prowess, while Sjogren is a disciplined center who like to play defense and hit people.

If one of these players impresses McPhee and Boudreau enough this week and in training camp in September, he could force his way onto this team for opening night.  If not, the Caps brass likes what they have here already.

"Like always, in our development camp we're looking forward to somebody stepping up," Boudreau said to the gathered media, 40-plus strong for development camp in July. "The word for today was 'opportunity'. If you look at the amount of guys that have been signed to pro contracts that have come to our camp -- either by us or by other teams -- it's a time to get noticed. So we're hoping some young men will take that step and push forward."

McPhee discussed the parameters of  giving a job to a rookie.  "You never want to put anybody in before they're ready.  We've done it a few times and had success, with a [John] Carlson or a [Marcus] Johansson. Those were calculated risks we thought were worth it and they turned out to be really good for us."

"It can be really detrimental for development to put a kid out there before he's mentally or physically ready."

When asked what he liked about Sjogren, a physical center who recorded a career-high 24 points (seven goals, 17 assists) in 51 games for Farjestad of the Swedish Elite League last seaosn, McPhee wasn't bashful.  "We started talking to him a year ago.  A lot of teams got in on that discussion later in the season when he played in the World Championships, but we really liked what we saw early on.  He's a big, strong guy he's got some grit to him. I know in the World Championships the players on Team Canada were saying 'This guy plays with an edge, some bite, and we don't like him very much', which is nice. He's here to compete for a job. The nice thing is he can play a couple positions. As we've said in the past, if one of these young guys is good enough we'll make room for him."

Sjogren's toughness was tested the first day, as an errant stick caught him up high, knocking out a tooth.  He left the ice for a few minutes to return and complete the practice.

Boudreau wanted to assess Sjogren's play this week before speaking of his style but he knows Sjogren wanted to join the Capitals.  "He had choices. He chose us. He's a determined young man, best friends with Marcus [Johansson], and if he has Marcus' character then I think we've got a real good one. He's signed with us cause he's determined he's gonna make the team. These make for good battles."

For his part, Sjogren wants to put his skills on display and let the organization make the decisions.  "I think it's good for me to come over here and show myself to the coaches that haven't seen me play live against others. It's a way for me to show how I play and how to get adjusted."

""I think I'm more of a defensive guy, but I will try to improve my offensive game, my toughness. I play physical in the game. Yeah, I try, that's my type of game. I'm not just a hitter, I try to be everywhere, especially when at center you have to be good on offense, defense too."

Both McPhee and Boudreau spoke glowingly of Eakin.  He enjoyed quite a season in 2010-11, registering 18 goals and 21 points in 30 regular season games for the Swift Current Broncos -- and then was traded for five players and three draft picks to the Kootenay Ice, where he went on to score 18 goals and 27 assists in 26 games as they marched to the Memorial Cup.  In the playoffs, he even turned it up a notch, going for 11 goals and 16 assists in 19 playoff games. 

As if that weren't enough, he played for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships and was plus-3 in seven games.

Could the Caps be thinking that the third time's the charm for Eakin to make his way onto the NHL roster?

"We've certainly thought of him in that respect," McPhee said.  "We thought he was every bit as good as Marcus was in camp last year. And there was some discussion about whether we should keep him last year. But it never hurts to let them play another year in juniors. He had a terrific experience last year in junior playing in the World Championships at Christmas then playing for the Memorial Cup. He played a lot of hockey and played a role, had the experience of being traded, all that stuff. He's a better player as a result now." 

"He'll be competing for a job," McPhee said.

"He does a lot of things at a high level," McPhee said describing Eakin's play.  "He's got a lot of speed, he's a player on the ice that's got good hockey sense. Those players are usually the best players. Real poised, lots of great character. He doesn't back down from anyone."

Boudreau said Eakin's personality and performance make him stand out among prospects. "Everyone paid close attention to Cody last year, him and his exploits and going to the Memorial Cup and World Juniors. He came in last year in camp really trying to make the team. When we sent him back to junior he was genuinely disappointed. He wanted a crack at making that team. I just look at him out here on Day One of a development camp in July and he's got that determination that he's coming in to make the team.  He’s going to be in tremendous shape and he’s going to do, I think, whatever it takes to stick. He’s got that mentality.”

And what does the coach think of his chances to make the opening night roster? "There's no job given to him -- at all. But he's gonna come in and and fight as hard as he can and it's gonna be a hard decision when it comes to sending him down. And he's in tough in that group, too. You've got Mattias Sjogren on the same thing, and you've got Matthieu Perreault, I'm sure he wants full-time work in this situation. So it will make an interesting battle in training camp."

Eakin is ready to get in to camp and compete and not wait until training camp in September to fight for a job.  "It starts now and I have to be prepared today and the rest of the week, and carry it over and work hard this summer."

Does Eakin think he can make this team?  "That's where I'm setting my goals.  I am coming into camp to make the team and if I don't, you know, that's the way it goes and I'll play where I end up.  But I think everyone that's coming into camp is going to have the same focus and the same goals too, to play on the Caps."

Eakin and Sjogren are both accomplished players for their age.  They both show the same drive, determination and goal to make the opening night roster for the Washington Capitals.  It's like McPhee said, the team isn't depending on either one of them to make the team, but if their play dictates that they've earned it, he and Boudreau aren't going to artificially hold either one back.

It's really the only battle in this development camp that could have any impact on the NHL roster, at least for opening night.  There are others that maybe later in the season or down the road could make an impact, but for now, it's up to a couple of centers to make a lasting impression before big league training camp in September.

All photos (c) C.Nichols/Caps News Network. All rights reserved.
For More Photos from Day 1, click here.