Young blood: Overwatch League Rookie of the Year candidates

As the 2020 season rages on, five players stand out in a sea of newcomers.

Each year, the Overwatch League is inundated with young talent.

Injecting new blood into the league gives fans a chance to appreciate standout performances and reminds veteran players to watch their thrones. For these young players, the Overwatch League’s Rookie of the Year award represents a concrete recognition of their hard work. 

In 2019, Kim “Haksal” Hyo-jong of the Vancouver Titans took the Rookie of the Year title for his mastery of multiple heroes across difficult metas. While the title doesn’t come with material benefits, it’s a sign of both pride and marketability. Haksal’s status as Rookie of the Year likely led to his acquisition by the New York Excelsior after the Titans roster was dismissed, giving him a second chance on a quality team. 

Our top Rookie of the Year candidates for 2020 range from the obvious DPS hard carries to the more quiet support enablers. All of these choices represent players who have made their entrance into the Overwatch League both flashy and unforgettable. 

Kim “Alarm” Kyeong-bo (Philadelphia Fusion) 

After years of destroying dreams in the Overwatch Contenders circuit, Alarm kicked in the door to the Overwatch League in 2020. As a longtime flex support carry on Fusion University, Alarm specialized in damage-heavy Zenyatta play reminiscent of 2018’s Overwatch League MVP, Bang “JJoNak” Sung-hyeon. Alarm has had to transition to a more subdued play style to support his teammates, but still manages to pop off on a regular basis. 

In the constantly-changing world of Hero Pools, he and main support Daniel “FunnyAstro” Hathaway have become the most consistent parts of the Philadelphia Fusion. With Fusion DPS Lee “Carpe” Jae-hyeok in talks for a potential MVP award, it’s important to remember the players who enable those wild carry performances. Carpe could not “do Carpe things” if Alarm was not out here, week after week, doing Alarm things. 

Kim “Yaki” Jun-gi (Florida Mayhem) 

Speaking of big performances, if you looked up “carry” in the dictionary, Yaki’s name and photo should appear. Thanks in part to his enormous plays, the Florida Mayhem has quickly gone from an underrated squad full of potential to a serious contender in the 2020 Overwatch League season. Much of this is due to stellar coaching, but Yaki’s star plays have turned eyes towards the Mayhem’s ability to excel. 

Something Yaki lacks, seemingly, is fear. When playing Echo, a hero DPS players were forced to pick up at light speed, he dives into enemy backlines and uses his Duplicate for utmost destruction. As Tracer, he seems completely unafraid of any duel in his path, whether against a fellow DPS player or an angry Brigitte. While the entire Florida squad should be commended for their play in 2020, including a runner-up finish in the North American May Melee bracket, Yaki has solidified himself as the shining star. 

Lee “LeeJaeGon” Jae-gon (Shanghai Dragons) 

Even a successful team needs a little spice. The Shanghai Dragons had a remarkable season in 2019, taking a stage championship and building faith among fans. Former RunAway main support LeeJaeGon was added during the offseason as the Dragons attempted to “level up” their play for 2020. LeeJaeGon is, in a way, the borderline “Reddit Lúcio” we never knew we needed and aren’t sure we deserve. 

His high-flying theatrics on Lúcio have solidified him as a standout on Shanghai’s roster, sometimes outshining Overwatch League veterans like DPS Kim “Fleta” Byung-sun. Even his flex heroes, like Brigitte, are equally as wild and fast-paced. Above all else, LeeJaeGon has enabled Shanghai’s stellar DPS lineup to roll through teams in the Asia-Pacific region at light speed. If the Dragons make a push for this year’s Grand Finals, LeeJaeGon will be partially responsible for that journey. 

Kai “KSP” Collins (Los Angeles Valiant) 

Rookies make up most of this year’s Los Angeles Valiant roster after the team was restructured going into the 2020 Overwatch League season. Choosing one standout from the shockingly cohesive, ever-improving team is difficult, but KSP is the leading nominee. The hitscan DPS, who spent years in the European and North American Overwatch Contenders circuits, seems to routinely clutch lost fights for the Valiant squad.  

Of all the DPS players on this list, KSP is arguably the one who reverses the tide for his team most often. As a mostly-rookie team, the Los Angeles Valiant has often struggled this year with missed calls, minor mistakes, and over-extensions that veteran teams punish. KSP’s hitscan dominance, especially on Widowmaker and Ashe, evens up a fight to the point where his team can regain their footing. If nothing else, KSP’s talent brings a level of confidence to the Valiant that can’t be understated. 

Choi “Hanbin” Han-bin and Brice “FDGoD” Monscavoir (Paris Eternal) 

During the 2019 offseason, the Paris Eternal signed multiple players from Overwatch Contenders Korea team Element Mystic, giving the formerly all-European squad a brand new look. What could have been a complete disaster if handled incorrectly, or with the wrong talent, has overwhelmingly been a success for the team. Off-tank Hanbin and main support FDGoD are the best examples of cross-cultural cohesion that makes a difference in every match. 

Both players feel equally responsible for taking a Paris Eternal roster that often lacked finesse into their own hands, doubling down on speedy, quick attacks against enemies. Hanbin, whether on D.Va or Sigma, consistently creates space for his team while shutting down more DPS abilities than he ever should. In the backline, FDGoD toes the line between overly aggressive Lúcio play and passive, reliable healing. Though other Eternal rookies, like Jung “Xzi” Ki-hyo, have had standout performances, FDGoD and Hanbin redefine “standout” every weekend.  

Honorable mentions 

  • Kim “Edison” Tae-Hoon (Atlanta Reign) 
  • Lee “ANS” Seon-chang (San Francisco Shock)  
  • Lee “LIP” Jae-won (Shanghai Dragons) 
  • Lim “Glister” Gil-seong (London Spitfire) 
  • Jung “Xzi” Ki-hyo (Paris Eternal) 

The Rookie of the Year award will be given to one player at the end of the season, currently an unknown date due to make-up games. The Overwatch League action continues on June 20 as the Summer Showdown tournament continues. 

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