Toronto, ON – The Ontario Hockey League today announced that forward Justin DiBenedetto of the Sarnia Sting is the winner of the Leo Lalonde Memorial Trophy as the OHL’s Overage Player of the Year for the 2008-09 season.
DiBenedetto finished third in league scoring with a career-high 45 goals and 48 assists for 93 points in 62 games. He had a plus-minus rating of plus-14 and finished the season with 85 penalty minutes. He was named the All Weather Windows OHL Player of the Month for October and the Boston Pizza OHL and CHL Player of the Week for the week ending October 12th. In just his fifth game this season, in a 7-2 win over the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds on October 12th he recorded seven points including five goals, tying a Sting single game record. He finished the year with 26 multi-point games including three hat-tricks and had a 10-game point scoring streak that began on January 11th.
"I am extremely grateful to have been selected for this award” said DiBenedetto. “There are so many deserving players who were nominated for this award and I would like to congratulate them on a tremendous overage season.”
The 20-year-old native of Vaughan, ON, scored 132 goals and 156 assists for 288 points in 303 career OHL games spanning five seasons. He played two seasons with the Toronto St. Michael’s Majors who drafted him in the first round, 18th overall at the 2004 OHL Priority Selection. As a member of the Sting he represented the club in the last two OHL All-Star Classics. Most recently in Windsor at the 2009 Subway OHL All-Star Classic, DiBenedetto was named Western Conference game MVP scoring a hat-trick. He was selected by the New York Islanders in the sixth round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
“I would like to thank the Ontario Hockey League, the St. Michael's Majors and the Sarnia Sting for all the opportunities I have been given over the past five seasons” added DiBenedetto. “I will always remember my time in the OHL fondly."
The Leo Lalonde Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to the top overage player of the year as selected by OHL general managers. Teams were not permitted to vote for players from their own hockey club. Players received five points for a first place vote, three points for a second place vote and one point for a third place vote.
DiBenedetto received 86 points in the voting process, followed by Saginaw Spirit captain Chris Chappell with 37 points, and Windsor Spitfires goaltender Andrew Engelage who finished third with 27 points.
The Leo Lalonde Memorial Trophy was donated by the trainers of the Ontario Hockey League, in memory of the late Leo Lalonde, former Chief Scout of OHL Central Scouting. Leo Lalonde was also formerly the Chief Scout for the Belleville Bulls as well as a scout for the Peterborough Petes.
Former winners of the trophy include Iain Fraser (Oshawa, 1989-90), Zac Bierk (Peterborough, 1996-97), Bill Bowler (Windsor, 1994-95), and Ryan Callahan (Guelph, 2005-06). Michael Swift was the recipient last season playing for the Niagara IceDogs. DiBenedetto becomes the second member of the Sarnia Sting to win the award following Aaron Brand in 1995-96.
DiBenedetto will be presented with the Leo Lalonde Memorial Trophy at the 2008-09 OHL Awards Ceremony scheduled for Wednesday June 3 at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
(Nathan also is a writer for Maineiacs Post to Post and the Maine Hockey Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)