Grizzlies.Fodstad

Rochester Grizzlies forward Joey Fodstad (13) skates past a Willmar WarHawks defender during a game last season at the Rochester Recreation Center. Fodstad is the top returning goal-scorer for the Grizzlies this season, having scored 20 goals in his first season with the team. (Andrew Link / alink@postbulletin.com)

Joey Fodstad's second season with the Rochester Grizzlies hasn't officially started, but he already sounds like a team leader.

"Everyone has a role and we'll help everyone find their role," the 19-year-old from Rogers, Minn., said. "We want to help them improve as hockey players and off the ice, too. As an older guy now, it's good to show the younger kids what I've learned over the years from the leaders and older guys I've played with."

It's not just Fodstad's perspective that will make him a leader.

He'll be a leader on the ice, too. The 6-foot, 190-pound forward is the top returning goal-scorer for the Grizzlies this season. He finished last season with 20 goals and 31 points, helping Rochester go 32-17-1 in its inaugural season in the North American 3 Hockey League.

Only Vlad Sorokin (41 goals) and Matt DeRosa (23) had more goals for the Grizzlies last season than Fodstad did. But Sorokin aged-out of junior hockey and DeRosa signed a tender with the Jamestown (N.Y.) Rebels of the NAHL at the end of May.

Fodstad will get a chance this weekend to show the Grizzlies coaches how much he's improved over the summer. The Grizzlies are holding their main tryout camp at the Rochester Recreation Center; it started Friday evening and goes through Sunday.

"(Fodstad) has a lot of offensive upside," first-year Grizzlies head coach Chris Ratzloff said. "He's really slippery with the puck, makes plays and sets guys up well.

"We look for him to be a leader offensively, obviously, and a leader just as a returning guy in the (locker) room."

Fodstad was one of the Grizzlies' most consistent players last season. He played in 41 of their 47 regular-season games and didn't go more than four games without recording a point. He recorded two hat tricks and chipped in on the power play, too, with a pair of power-play goals.

"He has a big role for us this year," Ratzloff said. "He can score some goals as well as setting guys up, so not only can he make plays, but he can finish, too."

Fodstad said last year was an ideal learning experience for the Grizzlies' players and the veterans who return this season will be better for going through it. They played for a brand new franchise last season, and worked through the ups and downs of a season together.

"It was such a good group of guys and you could tell from the start that it was going to be a good year," he said. "There were obstacles we had to go through as a team. A lot of kids hadn't played juniors before. But we got through the kinks and bumps and had a 30-plus win season. That's impressive for a brand new team."

But the way that promising season ended so quickly -- with a first-round playoff loss to league power North Iowa -- hasn't sat well with many of the Grizzlies veterans.

"I can't speak for the other guys," Fodstad said, "but I bet they feel the same way. We feel like we have some unfinished business and that this can be our year.

"We have a good core group coming back and a lot of good young kids coming in, and we feel like we have a chance to go far. We have good coaching, a good fan base to play in front of ... everything is looking good for this year."

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Sports Reporter

Jason has been a Post Bulletin sports reporter and columnist since 2004 and covers high school football, volleyball, softball, golf, hockey, junior hockey and auto racing. He is a 1999 graduate of the University of North Dakota.