The “Rookie of the Split” award might not be the most prestigious one a player can get, but it’s still mighty important as it serves as an indication — a foretelling that one specific individual is destined for greatness; many prime candidates have showcased their talents throughout the 2022 LEC Spring Split, but only one of them is going to get the nod.
In this piece, we’ll go over the biggest frontrunners and talk about not just what they’ve accomplished thus far but also what their futures might entail. The European region is ripe with talent and this split, in particular, showcased that beautifully.
A whopping nine rookies all tried their hardest to leave a lasting impression; some, of course, were more successful at this than others, but they all “showed up” in one way or another. And, as is always the case, some of these individuals will go on and become the superstars of tomorrow, whereas others will fade into obscurity.
That’s just the “name of the game.” There’s always a lot on the line for these greenhorns as they still cannot take their jobs for granted — they’re expendable until they prove otherwise. Every game they play on the LEC stage could very well end up being their last, which is why they play with the utmost zest and fervor.
A thankless position, no doubt, but also one that gives birth to the most interesting narratives and storylines that make us want to tune in on a weekly basis.
For instance, we think that Jakub “Cinkrof” Rokicki (of Team BDS) stands out as the number one candidate. He is the most worthy and, frankly, it’s not even close. His individual performance has blown us away, but the fact that he plays for one of the worst teams in the league means he’s not going to get much “love” from his peers.
His name is not the one that’ll spring to mind once voting begins. Is that unfair? Absolutely, but that’s just the way things work, and there’s no changing it. Our list will, therefore, take this peculiarity into consideration. We’ll start off with the player we think will get the most votes — not the one we think is the most deserving.
? AIR SHLATAN ?
— LEC (@LEC) March 8, 2022
1. Lucjan “Shlatan” Ahmad — Jungle [Misfits Gaming]
Shlatan deserves a ton of praise. There’s really no other way to say it. He’s not the flashiest of junglers nor is he the most mechanically gifted, but he’s consistent, highly impactful, and also surprisingly capable at getting his team ahead even against the who’s who of the LEC.
His individual numbers are, however, somewhat deceiving. There’s nothing really that stands out: he has a 2.9 KDA, 62.2% Kill Participation (worst in his role), 14% Kill Share (second worst), 21.6% First Blood rate (third worst), along with some truly mediocre damage numbers.
Moreover, Shlatan was tasked with replacing one of the best junglers the LEC had to offer. And, frankly, we didn’t think he had it in him. Filling in the void for Iván “Razork” Martín was no small feat, and he deserves a ton of praise for tackling such a tremendous challenge head on.
2. Victor “Flakked” Lirola — AD Carry [G2 Esports]
If there’s one “threat” on Shlatan’s path to winning “Rookie of the Split,” it’s G2’s Flakked. This talented young marksman was also tasked with an exceedingly complex challenge: filling in for none other than Martin “Rekkles” Larsson — the de facto best Western AD carry of all time.
That’s about as big of a challenge as it gets!
The good thing about Flakked is that he wasn’t just a pale shadow mimicking his more seasoned allies — he brought something of his own to the table as well.
His stats aren’t overly impressive, but they do paint a very interesting picture: Flakked is still a bit too hesitant, too reserved to make the plays himself — at least during the early and mid stages of the game. His laning is meek and middling and his damage numbers wholly unimpressive. But we know that he’s better than his stat line tells us; he just needs a bit more time to acclimate to the biggest stage in Europe and then, once that happens, he’ll surely start styling over his opposition.
And, frankly, we get it: we wouldn’t want to risk anything either. If he were to make one bad move or throw a game he’d be vilified almost immediately. He wasn’t brought in to do the hard-carrying but rather to “fill in” and, eventually, become a marksman worthy of being talked about.
So far so good!
3. Jakub “Cinkrof” Rokicki — Jungle [Team BDS]
What a debut! Cinkrof has blown us away. There’s really no other way to say it. It’s hard to put into words just how incredibly challenging (if not, at times, impossible) it is to shine bright on a sub-par team.
He was BDS’ shining star and the one player who made them even remotely competitive. And his stats tell the same tale as well: he’s third best in Kill Share (22.4%), absolute best in Death Share (a meager 18.6%), second best in First Blood rate (50%), and Top 2 in both gold and experience differentials at the ten-minute mark.
These numbers not only scream potential but they’re also quite telling — he’s trying his hardest to carry but he’s not getting enough assistance. His teammates aren’t bad per se but they are less capable and consistent.
Cinkrof has had an absolutely phenomenal split and if he keeps playing this darn well he’ll no doubt be switching teams sooner rather than later.
He’s the most impressive rookie of them all, and his consistency and overall impact are made all the more astounding once you factor in the team for which he played.
He’s our number one pick for the “Rookie of the Split” award, but he hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention as some of his peers, so it’s hard for us to rank him any higher — even though he is the most deserving.
4. William “UNF0RGIVEN” Nieminen — AD Carry [MAD Lions]
Last but certainly not least, we have UNF0RGIVEN, a player who simply didn’t have enough luck. The things he did at the very start of the split were downright mind-blowing.
His positioning, damage output, and teamfighting prowess left no one indifferent. Two weeks in, we all thought he’d win “Rookie of the Split” — he was that darn good. And he wasn’t just good “for a rookie;” UNF0RGIVEN even outperformed most of his more seasoned peers and colleagues.
He played like a man possessed, like one of the very best AD carries in the LEC — and that’s really saying something. Unfortunately, his incredible play wasn’t enough to give the MAD Lions a fighting chance. The team as a whole never really “clicked,” although it certainly wasn’t for a lack of trying.
They had no identity to speak of, and their most seasoned players underperformed severely.
What exactly went down and who’s to blame (if anyone) is less important at this point in time — the damage is done, and there’s no use in pointing fingers. UNF0RGIVEN, for one, played exceptionally well. He’s a rookie with very limited experience and yet he performed like a seasoned veteran, one with multiple trophies to his name!
Be that as it may, the sights of him styling over his opposition still linger in the back of our minds, and a few bad games are by no means enough to wash it all away. The MAD Lions will now take an involuntary vacation, but we’re pretty certain they’ll return with a vengeance come Summer Split!
And, well, if UNF0RGIVEN was this darn good in his debut split, we can’t even imagine how dominant he’ll be with a bit more experience behind his belt!
Finally, we want to give out a few honorable mentions. Oliver “Dajor” Ryppa, Daniel “Sertuss” Gamani, Steven “RKR” Chen, and Mertai “Mersa” Sari all deserve some praise. None of them blew our minds but they did have great, standout moments, and we were definitely not left indifferent.
We could talk at length about their flaws and moments in which they fumbled beyond measure, but they’re all rookies and have, by all means, earned another shot. Mersa is obviously the most impressive of the bunch, but he also had the “easiest” role to play — on a team stacked with (surprisingly capable) hard-carries, no less.
Putting Dajor on any kind of list feels nigh ludicrous. We get it — it’s a wholly unpopular decision, but we have to give the guy some props: he’s done admirably well on the de facto worst team in the league and has managed to keep his morale up despite getting laughed at and ridiculed by both his peers and the community at large.
Much of the same can be said for Sertuss and RKR as well, neither of which had a particularly impressive debut. They did show some faint promise, but by no means is that enough for us to get excited or to give them our benefit of the doubt.
Still, they’ve all piqued our interest in one way or another, which is why we’ll gladly tune in come Summer Split to see whether they’ve improved and, if so, by how much!