2020’s Newly Eligible Players
With the 2019 season coming to a close, managers and owners in the Overwatch League should already be thinking ahead about which current Overwatch Contenders players they’d like to have on their roster next year. With next year’s roster construction rules released, every player born before June 15, 2002, will be eligible to be signed to an Overwatch League team at the start of the 2020 season (Sam O’Dwyer covered the top players turning 18 next year for The Game Haus here); many of the teams that have struggled this year will see this influx of newly eligible players as an opportunity to plug holes in their roster. So which teams are likely to pick up which players?
Despite a disappointing 2019 season, the Florida Mayhem might want to hold back on retooling their roster before the upcoming season; having recently added a number of new players including the core of a successful WGS Armament team and former Los Angeles Valiant main tank Pan-seung “Fate” Koo, the Mayhem have spent most of Stage 4 experimenting with different combinations of their new players. They might want to give Head of Scouting Scott “BEARHANDS” Tester and Head Coach Oh “Unread” Nam-hun more time to realize their vision for the team.
If they do decide they want to snatch some newly available talent, however, one of the strongest players who will be newly available for the 2020 season is RunAway main support Jae-gon “LeeJaeGon” Lee. He could be paired with Hyeon-woo “HaGoPeun” Jo for a potentially top-tier support line.
Similar to the Mayhem, the Washington Justice have already made sweeping changes to their roster over the course of the 2019 season. They will likely be heading into the 2020 season looking to try out the new players they already have rather than rebuild the team from the ground up for a second time.
Even if they’re confident in their main roster, they might still look to young hitscan players with a high potential ceiling such as Element Mystic’s Ki-hyo “Xzi” Jung or Gladiators Legion’s Dalton “Dalton” Bennyhoff. Although unlikely to displace Corey “Corey” Nigra on the starting roster, this would leave the Washington Justice with 12 players, enough to scrim internally, as well as keeping the starting roster competitive.
Boston are likely to be looking for a new flex support next year after benching Minseok “AimGod” Kwon. A second option at the off-tank position would also be a boost to the struggling Uprising with the 2-2-2-lock restricting Richard “rCk” Kanerva’s flexibility.
Leyton “Punk” Gilchrist, already on Uprising’s academy team, seems like a natural fit as an alternative to rCk. After being standout in his own region and at the 2018 Overwatch World Cup, Punk has continued to play well this year on Uprising Academy.
Although it’s a long shot, Boston’s philosophy of closely watching under-scouted regions means they might be the only non-Chinese team to take a look at LGE.Huya’s He “Molly” Chengzhi. Rumours of Boston pursuing Cai “Krystal” Shilong earlier in the season suggest that Uprising’s doors aren’t completely closed to Chinese talent, and Molly has given a truly standout performance in the latest season of Contenders China. He helped bring his team to a strong first place finish in 2019 Contenders Season 1.
With Jake “JAKE” Lyons and Dante “Danteh” Cruz playing very well in Stage 4 so far, the Outlaws’ DPS line already looks very solid. With Austin “Muma” Wilmot also looking strong at his role, the area the Outlaws might want to shore up most is their support line.
While there aren’t many English-speaking flex supports turning 18 before next season, at least one of them, Dario “Akraken” Falcao-Rassokja, of the Sydney Drop Bears, might be the Zenyatta specialist the team needs. With no language barrier and a plethora of experience as a flex support head and shoulders above most of his competition in Contenders Australia, Akraken could provide a major boost to the Outlaws’ support line in situations where Shane “Rawkus” Flaherty can’t play Ana.
Los Angeles Valiant
The additions the Los Angeles Valiant made from Mayhem Academy earlier during this season have transformed the 0-7 team of Stage 1 into one of the strongest teams in the league. However, with the potential for the meta to shift drastically before next season, the Valiant should look to deepen their roster by finding an alternative to Russel “FCTFCTN” Campbell at the main tank position.
Having committed to a mostly Western roster, the Valiant might want to pick up Otto “Milkyman” Saren, who turned 18 in May and is currently playing for a dominant Team Gigantti in Contenders Europe. Milkyman’s aggressive, fast-paced style as opposed to FCTFCTN’s more measured and defensive play will make the Valiant more meta-proof by giving them two very different options at main tank.
Another common criticism of Valiant’s roster is that they lack a star player who can reliably perform on DPS. While Brady “Agilities” Girardi and Kyle “KSF” Frandanisa have shown flashes of brilliance, bringing on a player like Widowmaker prodigy Tae-hoon “Edison” Kim or Gen.G Esports’ explosive Gil-seong “Glister” Lim would give the Valiant some much-needed consistency.
Similar to the Valiant, the Dallas Fuel’s DPS lineup consists of players who undoubtedly have their strengths. However, although Timo “Taimou” Kettunen, Dylan “aKm” Bignet and Zachary “ZachaREEE” Lombardo are all skilled players, their shallow hero pools make them inflexible.
Fortunately for the Fuel, there’ll be plenty of newly eligible players capable of playing a talented and flexible DPS in 2020. If the Fuel are able to win the inevitable bidding war over Yeong-han “Sp9rk1e” Kim, whose DPS talent has stood out even in the incredibly competitive field of Contenders Korea, or reunite ZachaREEE with his former Fusion University teammate and Lunatic-Hai alumnus Seung-jun “WhoRU” Lee, they’ll be able to field a much more impressive DPS squad.
It’s practically accepted as gospel that the Philadelphia Fusion will promote the highly rated flex support talent of Kyungbo “Alarm” Kim, who just recently turned 18, from Fusion University to their main roster before another team manages to poach him.
He might not be the only newly available player the Fusion pick up, however. Despite being an individually talented player, Su-min “SADO” Kim has failed to find cohesion with the Philadelphia Fusion; also having traded Joona “Fragi” Laine to the Guangzhou Charge, the Fusion might well be on the hunt for another option at their main tank position. Although he’d only be eligible halfway through the season, picking up Tae-sung “Mag” Kim, arguably one of the best main tank players outside of the Overwatch League, should be a top priority for the Fusion to shore up their tank line for the upcoming season.
Featured image courtesy of Element Mystic.
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