Five of the seven AOYs in the Elite era won at least one tournament in the season they captured the crown. VanDam won twice in 2008 and Reese did the same in 2010. Only Reese in 2009 and VanDam in 2011 finished the season without a trophy, and both of them had a second place finish that year.
Under the current Elite scoring system, the difference between first and second is only a single point, so winning isn’t as valuable as it was before 2012. Nevertheless, in your club or circuit scoring system, the difference between a win and a runner-up finish might be considerable — perhaps even more than the margin between AOY and the second place finisher.