With the team rosters firmly locked in place, the 2017 North American League Championship Series is set to get under way for 2017. Whilst the Spring Split lacks the decisive conclusion provided by the summer finals, the opening months of the season quickly identify players who are poised for a breakthrough season.
Whether benefitted by a promotion from the challenger scene, a new team infrastructure and new player network around them, or simply taking the next step as a professional, three players in particular have the opportunity to make waves in Season 7 of the NA LCS:
Juan Arturo “Contractz” Garcia
The prodigy has arrived. Juan Arturo “Contractz” Garcia joins the Cloud 9 roster as their starting Jungler after starting for the Cloud9 Challenger (C9C) team that beat NRG eSports 3-0 in the Promotion Tournament. Contractz will have big shoes to fill following the departure of former jungler William “Meteos” Hartman, one of the most iconic players in the NA region.
If not for Contractz only recently turning 17, fans would have likely already seen him on an LCS squad. Consistently praised for his high skill level, Contractz has the potential to be one of the best Junglers in NA, invaluable to any roster due to his native residency, freeing-up an additional import slot.
The pressure will be high for the youngster however, as he is the only new piece in the Cloud9 puzzle, bedding himself into a roster that reached the Quarter-finals at Worlds last season and already considered by many to be favourites for the Spring Split title.
Contractz brings a significantly different jungling approach to Cloud9, a style C9 fans have not seen since Lee “Rush” Yoon-jae’s brief stint with the team. He has much more of a carry mindset than Meteos, and would frequently be the carry force of the C9C roster (he finished 12/3/8 on Hecarim in their final match against NRG).
This carry ability will be showcased on a Cloud9 roster that is strong in every lane, allowing Contractz the ability to choose where to apply pressure and create advantages for himself.
As the only relative unknown on a veteran Cloud9 roster, Contractz will be given every opportunity to thrive in his first season. While the expectations are high, Contractz skill ceiling may yet be even higher. If he is able to synergize well with the team, he can possibly push the Cloud9 roster forward to a top finish in the NALCS. Look for Contractz to deliver on the hype by the end of the season.
Benjamin “LOD” deMunck
Benjamin “LOD” deMunck has been around the League of Legends scene for multiple years now, flying under the radar. After featuring for Challenger teams such as Curse Academy, LOD took over as the starting ADC for Team EnVyUs last season. After a quick start, Team EnvyUs quickly faded as the season progressed, ending what could have been a run to worlds with a bitter 6th place finish.
After the end of last split, LOD was approached by Team Dignitas (formerly Apex Gaming) to join their roster as the starting AD Carry. Joining LOD in the bot lane on a newly revamped Dignitas roster is Alex “Xpecial” Chu, an LCS veteran who has played for Team SoloMid and Team Curse/Liquid in the past.
As an aggressive player, LOD brings a carry mindset and snowball potential to the bot lane, a feature the Apex Gaming roster lacked with their former ADC. Despite EnVyUs finishing in the bottom half of the standings, LOD showed flashes of brilliance, though his potential was ultimately held back by the players around him.
He finished with the least amount of deaths per game of any ADC (1.8) in addition to the third highest KDA (4.3) behind Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi and Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng, both of whom were playing for vastly superior teams (C9 and TSM).
“On a good day, I feel like I’m probably in contention for the best. I feel confident playing with every AD when I feel that I’m on my game.”
Benjamin “LOD” deMunck
In Xpecial, LOD receives a huge upgrade for a lane partner over his former Nickolas “Hakuho” Surgent. Xpecial brings a similarly aggressive playstyle that will allow LOD the opportunity to create early leads and carry the game. This combination could be one of NA’s most potent duos by the end of this split, especially with new top lane Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho drawing pressure away from bottom lane to the top side of the map.
Samson “Lourlo” Jackson
Fresh off his debut season in the NA LCS, Lourlo is a name that is too often swept under the rug with the announcement of top Korean talent flooding into the North American Top lanes. When critics discuss Team Liquid, “Lourlo” is a buzzword that is used to discredit the team’s chances at Worlds. After the 2017 Spring Split, this will no longer be the case.
Not dissimilar to the manner in which steel is forged through fire, Lourlo seems to have thrived through the pressure and heat of last season’s early struggles. As he watched his team fall apart around him, Lourlo was often an afterthought to the uncertainty at the ADC position and the dramatic fall of what had been a promising line-up for Team Liquid.
Yet what was supposed to be a weakness in this year’s line-up, proved to be one of its greatest strengths when last month Liquid first showcased their new line-up at IEM Gyeonggi. Alongside new Jungle addition Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin, Lourlo was arguably Liquid’s best performer, with multiple solo kills and game-changing teleport plays.
While everyone talks about Reignover and AD Carry Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin, keep your eyes fixed on the TL top lane. Lourlo will be a force to be reckoned with this season, defying any unfair tags of weakness and struggle. He could easily finish in the top half of NA for his specialised role, with an outside chance of being in the top 3 Top laners in the region.