When Dan Hamhuis played his first NHL game in 2003, Dante Fabbro was still years away from tying his own skates.
Prior to last week, the only knowledge Fabbro had of Hamhuis was watching the veteran defenseman play for the Canucks when he was growing up outside of Vancouver.
But it wasn't long after the 20-year-old Fabbro inked his entry-level deal and stepped into the Predators locker room that the 36-year-old Hamhuis introduced himself and instantly took on the role of a mentor, tasked with making sure Nashville's newest blueliner felt comfortable in his surroundings.
When Fabbro made his NHL debut on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena, it only made sense to pair the kid with zero games of professional experience with the man who has more than 1,000.
"Having that guy by your side and kind of picking apart his mind in certain situations, it's been really helpful for me," Fabbro said one day after skating in his second NHL contest alongside Hamhuis. "He's a pretty calming presence out there for me, and he's always talking and we're talking to each other. It makes things a lot easier out there."
Known as Hammer and Fabbs to their teammates, the two have become fast friends, and the veteran has even had Fabbro and fellow rookie Rem Pitlick over for dinner to meet the family and enjoy a relaxing meal away from the rink.
The Predators made the transition as easy as possible for Fabbro, but still, going from a classroom to an NHL locker room in a matter of days isn't necessarily the easiest situation to navigate.
Hamhuis knows exactly what Fabbro is going through, too. Every player was once in this position, the new guy coming in wondering where to sit on the bus and the plane, how to get to the rink and who to ask when a question arises.
Hamhuis wants to be that guy for Fabbro, a way of paying it forward after experiencing the same assistance all those years ago.
"I was mentored by older players when I came in, and it's important," Hamhuis said. "It's challenging out there. Every night, there's always different situations, different pressures that you're faced with. To have an older to guy to be alongside you that's been through a lot of that, to kind of help you through what's important and what to let go of, it's huge. It helps a lot, so I'm trying to keep that going and to pass it along to Fabbs."
Fabbro impressed in his first outing on Saturday against Columbus, but his game was that much better on Tuesday night in Buffalo, a fact confirmed by the rookie on Wednesday - as well as his defensive partner.
"It's been easy to do, because he's a smart player and he just plays a simple, effective game out there," Hamhuis said of playing with Fabbro. "I feel like we've been able to read off each other quite well. We've talked a lot off the ice, and we try to communicate on the ice as much as we can in order to make the game easier for ourselves."
Pairing the two up was no coincidence, either. Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette had the two skating together from Fabbro's first practice last week, and when Hamhuis came off of Injured Reserve prior to Saturday's game, it just so happened that Fabbro got the call, too.
"Any time you can get that guidance form somebody's who's been through a lot with his career, has the experience that Dan has - and he does it in such a calming way - I think that's a real positive on a young player," Laviolette said. "Having them paired together and spending time together away from the on-ice play is an important thing, and it's nice that Dan's taken him under his wing."
Laviolette and his staff haven't had any qualms about keeping the duo together for the past two outings, and although it remains to be seen if Fabbro's fifth NHL game will also be his first in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it's certainly a possibility.
If that turns out to be the case, chances are Hamhuis will be right alongside, ready to calm the nerves that would understandably come with the chaos of the postseason.
But then again, the rookie has been quite cool thus far. Perhaps the veteran has had something to do with it.
"He's a great guy, and I think everyone can attest to that," Fabbro said. "But I just want to be here and learn from all these guys, and if I get that opportunity to play in the playoffs, it's going to be a lot of fun. I'm super excited for this time of the year."