Joey Fodstad needed an edge that can only come from experience.
The 19-year-old Rogers, Minn., native gained that experience last year.
And he has found that edge this year.
"It’s nice to have that little edge of having been around the league, knowing the little tips and tricks when it comes to the refs or the ice (in a certain arena), and different things around the league," Fodstad said.
Whatever edge Fodstad has discovered, the Grizzlies hope he hangs onto. Through eight games, he is fourth in the entire NA3HL in goals (10) and 11th in points (15).
Fodstad's early-season production is a big reason why the Grizzlies are off to a 6-2-0 start heading into this weekend's two-game series at Peoria (Ill.) on Saturday and Sunday.
"I think Joey has always had that ability to score," Grizzlies head coach Chris Ratzloff said. "I think he's comfortable with who he's playing with (linemates Porter Haney and Devin Hays) and he has a great attitude this year.
"That positive attitude and hard work will allow him to keep getting opportunities. And he's a goal scorer. When he gets chances, he finishes."
Fodstad, one of 10 players back from last year's Grizzlies team that won 32 games in its inaugural season, has a different kind of confidence this fall. The game has slowed down for the 6-feet-1, 190-pound forward.
"I'm playing with people I'm comfortable with and running systems I know from last year," he said. "Having a coach who believes in you always helps, too. We've had a couple of bumps so far, with two losses, but six wins in eight games is a pretty solid start."
Fodstad's early season success doesn't come as a surprise to anyone in the Grizzlies' organization. His 20 goals last season were third-most on the team, and the most among returning players this year.
In just eight games, he's already halfway to matching his goal total of a year ago. And he's doing it almost exclusively while playing at even strength: Fodstad's only special-teams point this season is a short-handed goal he scored on Sept. 21 against Wausau, part of a career-best five-goal game.
"He anticipates really well, jumps to open areas," Grizzlies assistant coach Mike Aikens said of Fodstad, "and you have to credit the people he's playing with, whether it's long passes from his defensemen or passes from his linemates. It's not just one person. We have to give a ton of credit to the guys who have been able to find him and get him the puck."
Fodstad said that, while it helps to have a year of experience under his belt, he's also benefited from a locker room that has come together quickly.
"I feel like … in the locker room last year, maybe things didn’t jell as much, but this year I feel like we’re a band of brothers already, and it’s only a month in," he said. "It’s nice to feel that the people to your left and right on the bench have your back no matter what.
"It just feels different this year, in a good way."
Fodstad hopes to keep his hot streak going this weekend as the Grizzlies -- currently in second place in the NA3HL Central Division -- look to gain ground on division-leading St. Louis.
"Joe’s really good on breakaways, but also just being around the net, being ready has helped," Ratzloff said. "I just want him to score goals, however he does it is fine with me. Goal-scorers are really smart players, they know where they need to be to score and that’s what he’s doing."