In sports, your number is your identity.
Players and fans have their favorite numbers for many reasons, whether it's because of an idol who wore that number or a birth date or just because they like the look of it.
And for the players you'll see it often in sports. A rookie begins his career with one number and after establishing himself will switch to another number that's more of him, the number that he grew up with.
Unless you're a high-end talent, ala Jonathan Huberdeau for example, you're usually given a number by the equipment staff on Day 1 at Development and Training Camps that stays with you until you're given a chance to change. It's happened to Panthers players such as Shawn Matthias (started with 41 and changed to 18) and Dmitry Kulikov (started with 43 and changed to 7). What's rare is to have a change in numbers during the season. One has to get approval by the league for various reasons, which means most changes will happen during theoff-season.
For rookie forward Drew Shore, he's that rare example.
Given 40 back when he started coming to Development Camps and then changed to 50 this off-season, the 22-year old switched his number to one he knows quite well as he'll wear 15 for the foreseeable future.
"I've kind of worn it my whole life," said Shore who wore it during his minor hockey days on up to his time with the US Development Program and the University of Denver. "I was presented with the opportunity. They asked if I would like to wear it here and I said yeah.
“I'm excited about it."
As he should be.
While it doesn't mean he's guaranteed a spot in the Panthers lineup for the rest of the season, that number change can mean so much. It mean's he's made an impression enough to warrant the accolades.
"Coming from the first day, I wanted to put an impression on them and show them that I wanted to be here for the rest of the season and for the foreseeable future," said the Panthers 2009 second round pick (44th overall). “I think from that standpoint it's gone pretty well.
"It's a step in the right direction. I think as a snap shot, I think I've played pretty well. Since being here I've shown that I can contribute on both sides of the rink offensively and defensively so that's exciting."
And his hard work in all three zones has not been taken for granted. Shore, who has recorded seven points in 15 games while centering the "Kid Line" with fellow rookie Huberdeau and 24-year old Peter Mueller was spoken highly of by headcoach Kevin Dineen during a recent interview with the South Florida media.
"I think Drew Shore came here with a suit and a pair of jeans," said Dineen. "It was a short term fill and when he came to play, it was to come in, get the NHL experience, not because of his potential or where he was drafted. He was here because he was a guy that was playing well enough to come out and help us in the short term.
And that question Dineen was answering was actually asked about netminder Jacob Markstrom’s opportunity after being called up Wednesday. The Panthers head coach compared the situation to Shore’s story.
"Drew's worked himself into a situation where he is a guy that we rely on in a lot of different situations," continued Dineen. "Nothing is given. Everything is earned and Jacob will be handled the same way."
For Shore, the forward appreciated the chance to change his number in his first professional season after playing for three seasons at the University of Denver. He's certainly not complacent with what he's been able to accomplish so far in the first 13 games as a Panther after playing in San Antonio to start the season.
"I think I've played well but I still have another level that I can get to and I'm looking forward to it," said Shore.
So what does a guy that his head coach said "was a guy that was in sociology last year at this time" want his game to take the next step in?
“Just offensively I think I'm getting really close. I've had a lot of chances and I think that once a couple more start to come, they're really going to come in bunches,” said Shore who was also named an AHL All-Star this season with San Antonio. “I know I scored one but I'm still trying to break through and I think once that happens it's going to be good.”
Shore has certainly had his chances. Mostly it’s been a case of the goaltender coming up with a big save on a good opportunity. He’s second on the team with 44 shots and his line has been one the best trios on the team to date. And he’s done all that while averaging 14:51 of TOI, good enough for the ninth highest average among forwards. He knows that he has to be on his best every night and make that impression on the coaching staff in order to stay.
“For me it's all performance based. I'm not basing anything on potential,” said Dineen. “I'm watching the games. I'm watching how they react at practice and seeing whether they're ready or not. There's always little tell tale signs.”
“Any time certainly, even with the forwards, we have a bunch of guys that can play a bunch of different roles so every day is competitive out there,” said Shore. “Guys know that if you don't play hard one night, there's going to be someone else that can play hard and I think having that in general right now is good.”
That No. 15 flying up the ice, that's Shore. He's done it since he was a mite playing in Denver and it'll be him for what hopes to be a long and prosperous NHL career with the Panthers.