(Courtesy OJHL website)
March 13, 2015, North York, Ontario – The Ontario Junior Hockey League today announced that Gabriel Valenzuela of the North York Rangers has been named the 2014-15 recipient of the OJHL Most Improved Player Award.
After not playing hockey for an entire season just two years ago, the Rangers alternate captain has worked his way over the past two seasons in North York to becoming one of the OJHL’s premier forwards, finishing fifth overall in league scoring with 76 points in 53 games played. Valenzuela’s 34 goals was the league’s fourth best total, while his 42 assists tied for sixth best among all players.
Valenzuela would play the 2011-12 season as a rookie with the Milton Icehawks before taking a break from the game for the 2012-13 season. Remarkably, he would return to the game in 2013-14 with the Rangers and post respectable numbers with 10 goals and 34 points in 53 regular season contests. The skilled playmaker would surpass his career single season high’s this season by early November while more than doubling his offensive output. His 34 goals was more than triple the 10 last season, while his 76 points was more than double his production in 2013-14. Valenzuela was a key member of both special team units for the Rangers, notching 24 power play points and six shorthanded points that included three goals and three assists, both ranking top ten in the OJHL while a man short. He registered points in all but 12 games this year and kicked-off the season by getting on the scoresheet in 23 of the club’s first 24 games.
The diminutive forward’s quick start to the 2014-15 season saw him named the OJHL Gongshow Gear South-West Conference Player-of-the-Month for October after recording 20 points in 11 games during the month. Valenzuela’s efforts this season would earn him a spot on Team OJHL Coffey, tallying one goal in three games at the 2014 Central Canada Cup All-Star Challenge that was held in Toronto, while also officially committing to join the NCAA Division I Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) Tigers beginning with the 2015-16 Atlantic Hockey season. Following the season, he was named an OJHL 2nd Team All-Star Forward.
The OJHL Most Improved Player Award is awarded annually to the player adjudged to have shown the greatest improvement in his on-ice performance from the previous OJHL regular season(s).