by PuckStopsHere on 05/24/09 at 04:19 AM ET
The playoff +/- leader is Daniel Cleary of the Detroit Red Wings. His +15 rating in only 14 games gives him a surprisingly big lead. He is three points ahead of Milan Lucic of the Boston Bruins and four points ahead of teammate Henrik Zetterberg (who has the second highest +/- rating among players still in the playoffs).
Cleary has had a good playoff so far. His thirteen points place him third on the Detroit Red Wings in scoring. That is not bad for a guy who at one time looked like he would be one of the biggest failed prospects in history.
At age 16 when he entered the OHL, he was expected to be the first overall pick in the 1997 NHL draft. He had almost as much hype surrounding him as Eric Lindros or Sidney Crosby when they started their junior careers. It quickly wasn’t to be. Cleary was not mature enough to live up to his expectations. He had a DUI arrest while still 16 years old and was cut from the Canadian team in the World Junior Championships (coached at the time by Mike Babcock). When he came eligible for the NHL draft, he was chosen thirteenth overall by the Chicago Blackhawks. Everyone knew he had potential, but it looked like a good bet that he wouldn’t manage to jump to NHL stardom.
His NHL career did not begin successfully. He had failed stints in Chicago, Edmonton and Phoenix and almost played himself out of the league. The Detroit Red Wings gave him what looked like his last chance to have an NHL career. His first season in Detroit (2005/06) did not go to well. He scored only three goals and 15 points in 77 games. However, from that point on Cleary has odne better. Cleary has become a reliable depth player on the Wings who can score about 40 points a year and be relied upon in defensive situations. He is playing quite well in the 2009 playoffs.
Daniel Cleary has been one of the better Detroit forwards in the 2009 playoffs. He has a large lead in playoff +/- (though he is not playing the toughest calibre of opponents). He is scoring pretty well. Cleary will never become the superstar that he was once projected to become, but he has become a pretty good NHL player.
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