Sure. That's true of most areas of law. All things being equal, the candidate with higher grades will win out. That's especially true if you're looking at going into an area where your personality and things like the ability to source work matter even less.
But gaining experience through extracurriculars and clinics, etc. will be a big help in getting some of these jobs, and I can say that some people working in niche areas like constitutional or human rights law were not necessarily honours graduates in my class.
$88k and $98k are both fiction.
Articling students downtown work for and are paid for 40 weeks.
$1900 x 40 = $76,000
$1700 x 40 plus the bonuses = $76,400
Both are clearly better than the $1450 paid before the summer raise, but going to $1900 from $1700 is just shuffling deck chairs without the extras.