During this past offseason, the North American League of Legends scene received one of the biggest influxes of international talent across the world. With 12 new imports making their way to the League Championship Series (LCS) and multiple other big-name players finding new homes, 2022 is shaping up to be one of the most exciting years in the region’s history.
The LCS is used to seeing star players enter its ranks from across the globe, but the level of talent acquired for 2022 is impressive. From European superstars to promising young Korean and Chinese prospects, the LCS has opened its door to a diverse cast of new players that could build a legacy with their respective organizations.
There will be a handful of players whose spotlight will be burning much brighter than others, however. With so many imports joining the league, NA’s own resident players—veteran superstars and young prospects alike—will need to step up even more to avoid being overshadowed by the new blood joining their ranks. As a result, the race is on for these players to stand tall at the peak of the mountain once the Lock In begins Jan. 14.
Team Liquid’s Bjergsen
The greatest player in North American history has returned, but it’s not in the jersey he was seemingly born in. For the first time since he arrived in the United States, Bjergsen is starting for another team not named TSM. And to some people, it won’t really sink in until they see him on Summoner’s Rift and his name on a new jersey.
But even though he is returning with a red carpet at his feet and a star-studded cast of teammates next to him on Team Liquid, the pressures of success will still weigh heavy on his mind. After a year away, Bjergsen will be jumping head-first into a hyper-competitive league with multiple contenders standing in front of him and his seventh LCS championship.
He’ll also need to understand that for the first time, he isn’t the unshakeable face of the franchise like he was on TSM. In fact, many of the players on Liquid’s super-charged lineup will need to adjust to playing with people who are accustomed to being at the head of the table. This is a whole new roster and team, and they all have to prove themselves once again. And Bjergsen is the only one that is returning from retirement.
The 25-year-old icon must not only show that he still has the mechanical skill to stand tall among the other mid laners in the LCS, but he must also discover what role he’ll be taking for this lineup. If his vision for 2022 coincides with what the rest of the players and coaches see for the future of this team, then Liquid will be a problem for North America and beyond.
Evil Geniuses’ Jojopyun
Not many people know that Evil Geniuses’ new mid laner, Jojopyun, is only 17 years old. The young firecracker started his professional career near the end of 2020, but to fans and analysts around the world, he is the brightest LCS prospect we’ve seen in a long time.
As a new player looking to make a name for himself, there’s a good chance Jojopyun will be in the spotlight for both good and bad reasons this Spring Split. Throughout 2021, he showed a penchant for aggressive confidence that had him lead all LCS Academy mid laners in average damage to champions during the 2021 Summer Split. But he also had the fourth-most deaths in the league, according to stats aggregate Oracle’s Elixir.
It’s usually easier for coaches to teach restraint than it is to teach aggressive tendencies on the Rift, and Jojopyun already has the conviction to make big-time plays. But now it’s up to the people around him to help him learn control. With a coach like Peter Dun and teammates like Impact, Inspired, Danny, and Vulcan, he has plenty of good influences to shape his future.
This doesn’t mean he’s exempt from any pressure, though. He might be a rookie, but the amount of expectations on his shoulders to flourish is still intense. This roster could be a championship contender, but it also depends on how quickly Jojopyun develops alongside an MVP-caliber jungler, a Rookie of the Split winner, and two of the best NA players in the top and support positions. There’s no doubt that if he does struggle early on, people will give him a little nickname whenever he puts something on his misplay highlight reel, à la “INTpact” and “VulCAN’T.”
All of the criticism that will inevitably be thrown his way could have an effect on his focus and confidence, especially with how young and inexperienced he is. EG fans should hope that he either knows how to deal with these issues if they ever come his way or has the support system necessary to keep moving forward.
100 Thieves’ Tenacity
Tenacity is in the odd position of being the rare sixth-man on a team that made no roster changes heading into 2022. This team won the 2021 LCS Summer Split, so it makes sense the org wouldn’t switch things up. But this also means he’ll need to work that much harder to prove he is ready to take over and join the main roster on a more consistent basis.
As one of the top prospects in the league—next to Jojopyun, Kenvi, and Luger—the 18-year-old Canadian top laner now has the opportunity to learn and compete against one of the best players in his role, Ssumday. Both players have to continue improving at an exponential rate though so they aren’t left behind by their peer.
Tenacity has plenty to gain and nothing much to lose in this situation. If he performs well, he could very well be on the fast track to replacing Ssumday for the starting position on a championship-winning team. If he doesn’t amaze people in his debut, he should still be able to return to the Academy scene to continue his growth in one of the best developmental systems in the region.
At a certain point, the Thieves will need to pick which player is best for their success, which means these first few opening weeks in Tenacity’s LCS start will be crucial for his image and reception in the League community, as well as his stock as a possible main roster pick when the time comes.
As mentioned before, the departure of Bjergsen sent shockwaves across the NA League community. After a tumultuous year and offseason period, the reigning LCS MVP and superstar jungler Spica now finds himself at the forefront of this organization’s next rebuild as the face of the franchise.
The team has been thrown into a new era—whether it was by choice or forcefully—and with Spica remaining as the longest tenured member of the roster, it’ll be on him to help lead a team where multiple members have only started to stretch their wings out.
He might not be the oldest on the team, but his personality, in-game communication skills, and mechanical prowess deem him the right man for the job. He’s willing to play a multitude of champions, and he is very active in the early game with the second-highest first blood rate among LCS junglers. He also had the second-most kills in his role during the 2021 Summer Split, according to Oracle’s Elixir. He is proven and talented enough to take on the mantle.
But will he be able to handle the pressure that comes with holding the TSM name up to the light? The burden of failure weighs on every member’s shoulders during their campaign to a championship, but for the first time in his career, Spica will need to handle that journey as the man leading the way—not just the one following along.