Dante Fabbro was understandably a bit nervous when he made his NHL debut one month ago today - and who could blame him?
Just days earlier, he was captaining his collegiate club, a star for the Boston University Terriers, set in his schedule, comfortable in his surroundings. Now, he was on a new team in a new League and tasked with defending against some of the best players in the world.
But whatever nerves he may have been dealing with early on, they seemed to noticeably recede in his second outing, and even more so in the third. He scored his first NHL goal in his fourth-career contest, and the fifth was Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
No pressure, kid.
He was only on the ice for one goal against in Nashville's six-game series against the Dallas Stars, a strike that didn't place any blame to him. For a 20-year-old kid whose NHL games-played total didn't hit double digits until the sixth and final meeting of the playoffs for the Predators, Fabbro showed immense poise over those few weeks.
It was enough to earn the praises of peers and superiors alike, and he may just see his minutes increase on the Nashville backend next season.
"Dante was excellent," Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette said following the playoffs. "Coming in to an NHL team the way he did with not a lot of experience of training camps or some of the development that goes on and where he was at school, I thought he came in and really made an impact on our team. His first pass and his passing is excellent, his skating is excellent, his reads were very good… and it seemed the more he played the stronger he got. There is a good chance that his role will increase next year."
Fabbro showed signs he's capable of being the blueliner the Preds hoped he could be when they selected him 17th overall in the 2016 NHL Draft. After three seasons with the Terriers that saw him set career-highs in assists and points in his final act, Fabbro perfected his craft and was prepared for the situation he skated into after inking his entry-level contract with the Predators on March 27.
Video: Fabbro looks back on his rookie season and playoffs
A well-rounded player with offensive capabilities to go along with his defensive prowess, Fabbro watched one game from above two nights after the ink was dry, and his debut came 24 hours after that, the start of what is likely to be a long and successful NHL journey.
"Throughout my time in college and then coming here, I've had a pretty big emphasis on playing the right way, being composed and just making the right passes over and over again," Fabbro said. "I thought I did a pretty good job with that here. A lot of credit goes to my d-partner and the guys on the ice, too."
Dan Hamhuis made up the other half of that pair with Fabbro, a veteran presence who provided a calming influence anytime the duo was on the ice - not that Fabbro needed it.
"I don't think I can take too much [credit]," Hamhuis said of his partner's success. "He stepped in and right away played really well. He was composed out there making plays in high-pressure situations. That's the player he is, and that's why this team brought him here, drafted him, and it was great of him to be able to show that. If I could do anything along the way it was just trying to make him feel comfortable here and comfortable on this ice as well so he could play his game."
Participation in a Taco Tuesday at the Hamhuis residence earlier this month helped with the transition as well, and skating for Team Canada at the 2019 IIHF World Championship in May will undoubtedly assist Fabbro in his offseason growth as a player.
Time will tell if Fabbro will ultimately see greater responsibility when Opening Night comes around in early October, but if the past month was any indication, he'll be just fine if No. 57 is called with regularity.
"For me, it's all about learning and being a part of this experience," Fabbro said. "If that does happen, I think you kind of take it day-by-day and learn from the guys. There are a lot of great guys to look up to, and that would be a pretty cool experience."