Among the dozens of young hockey players skating around the Panthers training facility Monday afternoon, Aaron Ekblad stood out.

Unlike all but one other player, Ekblad has a single digit on his back. Ekblad's No. 5 will likely remain with him not only through this development camp but through training camp, into the upcoming season and beyond. It will also, no doubt, end up on the backs of many fans.

While the majority of those partaking in this camp — almost all wearing high double-digits — will be back in juniors or playing college hockey this fall, Ekblad expects to stay right where he is.

Being the first overall selection in the NHL draft brings many perks — not just being able to select the number you wear.

It also gives Ekblad the true opportunity to make it to the NHL at the age of 18.

“It's what I do with those opportunities,’’ Ekblad said after skating at the Panthers' training facility for the first time on Monday.

“There are a series of milestones and I have to perform and prove that I'm ready at each one of them. ... I’m obviously going to get the chance, but I have to prove myself. I can't rest on my laurels, rest on where I was drafted. I consider all of us as equals.''

The Panthers had flirted with the idea of trading the top pick in last month's draft but general manager Dale Tallon didn't get enough to make him give up the rights to Ekblad.

Tallon loves Ekblad's upside and ability to play older than his years.

Although defensemen take longer to develop than forwards because of the intricacies of the position, the Panthers believe Ekblad is going to be able to handle it.