There’s something so tantalizing about potential. Just the idea of the future and what a player can produce someday can feel pretty breathtaking.
A few players come to mind. Kyle “Scrub Killa” Robertson. Thibault “Chausette45” Grzesiak. Justin “JSTN” Morales. Jason “firstkiller” Corral. So many players with an unreal talent that could be molded into something incredible.
Sometimes it does, and other times it doesn’t. There are players with bright futures that never live up to them, and many more who peak later on in their lives.
Plenty of players hit what many perceive as their ceiling, then plateau for a bit only to find another level a season or two later.
Part 2 of the RLCS Awards is meant to highlight both ends of the spectrum. Players who have made massive leaps between RLCS seasons and others who just finished their first season dripping with potential.
Let’s talk about Rocket League’s Most Improved Players as well as its Rookies of the year. We might even have enough time to fit in some of the vets on their way out of the league.
Part 1 is available here if you missed it. Giddy up.
Rookie of the Year:
While this award is not officially given out, it has been awarded spiritually several times. Kevin “FindableCarpet” Brown screamed “ROOKIE OF THE YEAR” when talking about JSTN during the Season 5 Grand Final. Yanis “Alpha54” Champenois won MVP in his first season, so he’d definitely be considered ROTY last season.
But there’s merit in analyzing the game’s brightest newcomers. These are the players that will be pushing the meta forward for the next year, at least. So whose performance in their first RLCS season was the most deserving of the award?
Slater “retals” Thomas – Pittsburgh Knights – 0.75 GPG, 0.57 APG, 1.96 SAPG
I really tried to give this to Tshaka “Arsenal” Taylor for taking Spacestation to LAN, but the stats speak otherwise. Retals has clearly been the best rookie in terms of production.
No rookie scored more goals, dished out more assists or made more saves. Octane.gg’s rating system pins him as the third-best player in North America this season, and he’s a legitimate candidate to win the MVP.
JSTN and Caden “Sypical” Pellegrin will have something to say about that, but his performance has been very impressive. Jesus “Gimmick” Parra was the last North American rookie to finish in the top three of MVP voting, finishing second behind Jacob “JKnaps” Knapman in Season 4.
He’s also the first rookie to lead (or be tied for the lead) his class in the three major statistical categories. It’s been statistical domination, and no team has ever made LAN in their first promoted season in NA’s history. They’ve got a good shot at becoming the first.
Only Sypical had a better shooting percentage at his volume in the region (2.93 SHPG).
The argument for Arsenal is his contributions with demolitions (led NA in demos), his team’s overall performance and how much SSG improved with him in place of Matthew “Satthew” Ackermann. Arsenal is headed to the World Championship no matter what happens this weekend. Retals can’t say the same.
Runners up: Arsenal, Atomic, Mist, Roll Dizz, Gyro
Maello “AztraL” Ernst – Dignitas – 0.68 GPG, 0.57 APG, 1.79 SAPG
Hrant “Flakes” Yakoub and AztraL were the only European players playing their debut season because both of the promoted Rival Series teams were made up of previous RLCS vets.
AztraL had some really impressive moments this season, and one series against Team SoloMid inspired me to write an entire piece about his mechanical brilliance.
Few could match his speed, and none can match his creativity. He understands the movement of his car so well and can flip into unusual positions to get his car on the ball.
No one is more efficient in their path to the ball. His speed meshed beautifully with Jos “ViolentPanda” van Meurs, and they had a nice two-man game going.
There’s a lot of room for improvement, especially with his defensive decision making. At times this season opponents locked AztraL down and dared his teammates to beat them.
Flakes struggled to find any footing with Complexity in Season 8. His goal-scoring numbers weren’t great (0.58 GPG, No. 15 in EU) and he finished dead last in APG (0.19).
He wasn’t put in a position to succeed, but he showed he’s got the skill to stick around. Whether Complexity get relegated or not, Flakes will stay in the first division.
Runner up: Flakes
Most Improved Player:
This award is given to a player who spent consecutive seasons in the same league and saw an uptick in their performance. No rookies or stars here, just veterans who made the leap.
Disclaimer: Sypical and Dan “Bluey” Bluett are the easiest answers, and will be eliminated because of the cop-out clause, something I’ve invented just now.
Braxton “Allushin” Lagarec – Ghost Gaming – 0.56 GPG, 0.33 APG, 1.78 SAPG
Octane.gg put Allushin third from the last place in their rating system, but his greatest contributions don’t appear in the box score.
Allushin finished second in the region with 42 demos, and the space he created for Michael “Memory” Moss and Massimo “Atomic” Francheschi made life easier on offense.
Ghost Gaming finished second to last in NA with 1.70 GPG in Season 7. They finished fourth with 1.74 GPG in Season 8. Goals were harder to come by this season, and Allushin bulldozed his way into the lead for his team often.
At times last season, Allushin really struggled with his positioning and decision making, and while he still has lapses, like everyone does, he played much wiser this season. That’s what Ghost Gaming needed from him.
He played an important role as a support player, and now Ghost are one more series win away from making LAN. If he’s feeling it, then you can pencil them into Madrid now.
Runners up: AxB, AyyJayy, Memory.
Andy “Kassio” Landais – Veloce Esports – 0.55 GPG, 0.48 APG, 1.87 SAPG
Kassio had a similar stat line at the end of last season (0.57 GPG, 0.33 APG, 1.43 SAPG), but the improvement in assists and saves was invaluable to Veloce.
Sandro “FreaKii” Holzwarth made the majority of the saves and scored most of the goals, but Kassio was the one making challenges on clears and beating defenders to open shots up.
They were a good Rival Series team, and they have seamlessly transitioned into a good Championship Series team. Kassio had a lot to do with that.
Veloce also extended Kassio a greater role in terms of chance creation. Jack “FlamE” Pearton led the team in assists, but Kassio went from bottom five in APG one season ago to 12th in Season 8. Going from bad to average impacts the offense immensely.
Veloce have become a serious contender to win it all, and Kassio is an important cog in the machine.
Runners up: Ronaky, Bluey, ViolentPanda, Speed.
Most Marked Regression
Top players can’t stay at the top forever, and sometimes the descent happens so fast it’s jarring. One season a player is a world-class performer, and the next he can barely keep up. Slumps can last a long time, but these players took steps back too big to ignore.
Jesus “Gimmick” Parra – Cloud9 – 0.48 GPG, 0.52 APG, 0.93 SAPG
Here is a complete list of players who saved less than a shot per game for an entire League Play:
- Robert “Chrome” Gomez, Season 4 averaged 0.96 SAPG,
- Jayson “Fireburner” Nunez, Season 3, 0.80 SAPG,
- Phillip “Paschy90” Paschmeyer, Season 5, 0.97 SAPG
- Linus “al0t” Mollergren, Season 6, 0.83 SAPG
- Paschy90 Season 6, 0.97, SAPG
- ViolentPanda Season 7, 0.96 SAPG.
Panda, Fireburner and al0t were able to rebound, but it can be so hard to find that right rhythm again. There’s no doubt in my mind that Gimmick can turn things around, but he has a lot of work to do.
He was a defensive liability this season, and his over-aggressive offensive mindset makes it tough for the defense.
Gimmick’s speed didn’t yield the same results it usually did. Players are faster than ever and learned all of their mechanical pathing from Gimmick. Watching Worlds from home will be tough. Hopefully, Cloud9 can bounce back from this.
Runners Up: Kronovi, Rizzo.
Joonas “Mognus” Salo – Complexity – (0.26 GPG, 0.29 APG, 1.87 SAPG)
Mognus arrived back in the RLCS with triumphant expectations but ended the season bitterly disappointed.
The patient passing that put Mognus on the map started to backfire in the face of early challenges and blocked clears.
When chances would come his way he’d miss them or not get the proper contact to get on the score sheet.
It was frustrating for Mognus as well as Mairus “Greazymeister” Ranheim. It’s not clear who will remain with Flakes for next season, but Complexity need to get better. The game is passing Mognus and Greazy by.
Runners up: Greazymeister, Remkoe, Metsanauris.
Rocket League action continues this weekend with NA’s and EU’s Regional Championships. Saturday’s action will begin at 2 p.m. EST on twitch.tv/rocketleague.
Featured image courtesy of Stephanie “Vexanie” Lindgren for DreamHack.
Follow me on Twitter: @connorssanders.
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