Within the League of Legends ecosystem, Europe’s regional leagues are famous for their ability to nurture and promote rookie talent.
The last few years have seen a boom in players promoted to the LEC from Europe’s regional leagues (ERLs). Much of EU’s old guard has quietly filtered out of the LEC, whether through retirement or moving to play elsewhere, and they’ve left big shoes to fill.
And the rookies have stepped up to the plate. We’ve seen wave after wave of talent enter the LEC and find unprecedented success.
Every LEC team at the 2021 World Championship had at least one representative who had entered the league that year, with Fnatic even fielding two players with less than a full year’s experience in the competition.
In a Twitter post on January 6, the LEC officially confirmed that players would be playing remotely from their team practise facilities for the first week of the LEC. The move, which came in response to the continuing global pandemic, may offer the LEC’s rookies a chance to make their debut in a lower-pressure environment.
— LEC (@LEC) January 6, 2022
For some, this means better performance and the elimination of inevitable stage fright. For others, it’s postponing the arrival on a stage many have waited their entire professional careers to step on to. For better or for worse, this news will undoubtedly have an affect on the performance of these newcomers.
The 2021 offseason saw some of Europe’s most iconic players depart the region, with multiple LEC mainstays looking to take on a new challenge in the LCS. However, looking to step into the spotlight are a plethora of talented young players, and here are three of the most exciting LEC prospects in 2022.
Steven ‘Reeker’ Chen – Mid laner for MAD Lions
Reeker has a lot to live up to in his LEC debut. He’ll be joining two-time LEC champions MAD Lions, famous for the caliber of their rookies.
They’ve promoted some of the LEC’s most talented young players in recent years, including AD Carry Matyáš ‘Carzzy’ Orság and jungler Javier ‘Elyoya’ Prades.
As the former mid laner for the Prime League’s BIG, Reeker is a strong team player who will look to fill a similar role to MAD’s previous mid laner, Marek ‘Humanoid’ Brazda. He’ll be a steadfast presence in the midlane who can facilitate Elyoya’s oppressive map presence.
— MAD Lions English 🇬🇧 (@MADLions_EN) November 23, 2021
His most played champions are Sylas, Twisted Fate, Ryze, and Syndra, and during his time on BIG he proved himself to be a team player through and through.
“He consistently played for his team across both EU Masters,” caster Adrian “Jamada” Wharlton-Thorne told Dexerto. “Even though he could easily make his own leads and run with them in most games.”
He’ll be a player to watch alongside Spring 2021 Rookie of the Split Elyoya, and the pair will look to roam the map as an unstoppable duo.
Ex-BIG coach Danusch ‘Arvindir’ Fischer also spoke with Dexerto, explaining that Reeker’s strength lies in his versatility. “He can take over a lot of different roles, both in-game and in team communication, and he’s very good at identifying a situation in-game, knowing exactly what to do, and communicating that to his teammates.”
Arvindir also has faith in the power of the Reeker/Elyoya duo, which is shaping up to be one of the most exciting pairings in the LEC in 2022. “I think him plus Elyoya will be really exciting to watch… they can both play the supportive and the carry style.”
Oliver ‘Dajor’ Ryppa – Mid laner for Astralis
Dajor isn’t making this list because he’s going to be the next LEC Champion. Although he proved he’s no slouch by making it to EU Masters finals after being subbed last-minute for Fnatic’s academy roster in the NLC, he’s joining one of the LEC’s least successful teams.
Astralis have consistently been one of the LEC’s weakest teams since their entry into the league in 2020. Although they’ve strengthened their roster considerably in the offseason with the signing of AD Carry Kasper ‘Kobbe’ Kobberup, they’ve got a long way to go.
He’s on this list because he is by far one of the LEC’s most unknown quantities in the Spring split, with a competitive career that started midway through 2021. When it comes to rookie talent, he’s about as green as it gets.
The LEC Speedrun is complete. Welcome, @dajorlol!
Time to exceed expectations.
— Astralis League of Legends (@AstralisLoL) November 18, 2021
He attended EU Masters with Fnatic Rising, and made it all the way to finals only to lose in a nail-bitingly close five-game series against LFL giants KCorp.
His meteoric rise mirrors that of BDS toplaner Adam ‘Adam’ Manaane, who went from the LFL to a Worlds final in the space of six months.
Unlike Adam, however, Dajor was by no means the star of that Fnatic Rising roster. NLC caster Dan ‘Aux’ Harrison described him as “stellar at working with his team despite his limited competitive experience” throughout his time with Fnatic.
Aux explained that Dajor’s strengths lie in “his ability to be flexible while also being confident on picks that the team wanted to deny from other strong mid laners.” He has a wide champion pool that ranges from Seraphine to Renekton, but his most-played champions are the classics: Twisted Fate, Ryze, and Sylas.
This flexibility will be a crucial asset for Astralis. The LEC’s mid lane pool is one of the strongest in the world, but if Astralis can neutralize the lane with Dajor, they can focus their resources on Kobbe and allow him to carry safely without the risk of being camped by a roaming power pick.
Ex-Fnatic Rising coach Paweł ‘deIord’ Szabla describes Dajor as “a really exciting EU talent that’s going to change the EU LoL game.”
“He was really cool and calm while receiving feedback and made huge improvements during his time on Fnatic.” explained deIord. “He was really open minded and a joy to work with.”
This ability to take on feedback quickly is a promising sign for Dajor. There is no room for ego as a rookie, and especially on an underperforming team, the ability to take losses and turn them into lessons is a key skill.
Dajor has a hell of a lot to prove coming into the LEC. But if he can help turn around a consistent run of poor performance from Astralis, then he might just have one of the most exciting rookie debuts we’ve seen in a while in the region.
Victor ‘Flakked’ Lirola – AD Carry for G2 Esports
There’s a lot of pressure on rookies coming into the LEC, even more so when the team you’re joining is the single most successful organization in LEC history.
This is the case for Flakked, the new AD Carry for G2.
One of the Superliga’s most beloved players, Flakked had an unsuccessful debut in the Spanish league on the now-disbanded S2V Esports, where he finished in ninth place in his opening split. He joined MAD Lion’s academy roster in January 2020, and continued to perform well in the Superliga, despite continually missing out on first place.
And now he’s joining G2, stepping into the shoes of Martin ‘Rekkles’ Larsson, one of the most celebrated AD Carries of all time, after the organization had their most unsuccessful year in half a decade. He’s got a lot on his plate and he doesn’t even have the luxury of an LEC-experienced lane partner to guide him through his first games on the big stage.
He’ll be joined in the bot lane by Raphaël ‘Targamas’ Crabbé, a perennial ERL inhabitant who has finally reached the top level of competitive play.
Flakked is a hard-carry player. In the Superliga Summer split, he was one of the top three AD Carries for damage, and had the second-best KDA of any player at the tournament.
LVP caster Ainhoa ‘Noa’ Campos told Dexerto that Flakked is “not a classic ego player”.
“I’ve cast him since the Spanish amateur leagues,” she explained, “and he’s not the classic hyper-carry player that requires every resource and gank on the map to be funnelled into him.”
“He’s a mechanically gifted player, and he’s adapted very well to every single bot lane partner that he’s had.”
A lot of G2’s issues in 2021 came from their inability to split resources amongst multiple carries. However, Noa is confident that this won’t be the case with Flakked. “On MAD Lions Madrid he was the carry because he needed to be, but if he has to play Ziggs and permanently hug his tower then he will do it.”
He’ll need to adapt especially fast in the LEC. G2 are looking for a quick turnaround after their disappointing 2021 run, and they’ll need to show strength out of the gate if fans are willing to put their trust in this organization again.