Ray Sawada appears to be in the right place at the right time.
A gritty, big (6-2, 218), right-handed winger, Sawada is exactly what the Stars need at just the time it appears he is ready to challenge for a regular job in the NHL.
Sawada is an interesting study in patience and maturity. He played four years at Cornell and was a co-captain his senior year. He had a nice start in Iowa (AHL) two seasons ago when he tallied two goals and seven assists (nine points) in 19 games after leaving school. And last year, he had a very solid season with the Manitoba Moose, tallying 6-15_21 in 52 games before going on a 22-game playoff run to the AHL Finals. Sawada had four goals and four assists for eight points in the playoffs.
Oh yeah, and he also made his NHL debut with the Stars (scoring a goal on his birthday) and logged five NHL games.
So at age 24, Sawada is ready. And with only one other right-handed forward (Jere Lehtinen) as a regular, he is the perfect fit.
Now, there are some wildcards out there. Tyler Shelast also has four years of college under his belt (Michigan Tech), also is 24 and also is a gritty right-handed winger. However, he seems a little behind Sawada in his development (He had nine goals and 12 assists for 21 points in 31 games in the ECHL last season and added 2-1_3 in 17 games for Hamilton of the AHL). Colton Sceviour is making a big jump to pro hockey this season and is only 20, but he had 29 goals and 51 assists for 80 points in 69 games last season with Lethbridge (WHL). He has decent size (6-0, 200) and is a right-handed shot who can play center or right wing. And as much as Sergei Korostin is still a bit of a wild card after putting up 11-18_29 in 36 games with Peterborough (OHL) last season, he also is an interesting option at age 20.
So Sawada will have to earn his spot.
But if you're drawing up the lines right now, it seems pretty easy to put him in as the fourth line right wing next to Brian Sutherby. That would give you two players who have size, grit and still can play defense and possibly score a goal or two on the fourth line.
And that seems like a pretty good situation...both for Sawada and for the Stars.