Top Contenders Prospects for Overwatch League
Overwatch Contenders has been an important platform used by the Overwatch League to scout for new talent. Notable OWL stars like Alarm (Philadelphia Fusion), Stand1 (Shanghai Dragons), Stitch (Washington Justice), WHORU (NYXL), and so many more were discovered from their time in Contenders. With many Overwatch League teams in disarray searching for the perfect roster for 2021, good scouts will be looking at the fresh and upcoming talent in Contenders to fill in the gaps they have.
This list was compiled using recommendations from a dozen interviews with Contenders coaches and veteran talent from Contenders North America and Europe. Each role will comprise of players competing in Contenders North America and Europe that are above the age of 17 (a year below OWL eligibility) and have demonstrated incredible skill, work ethic, and coachability behind the scenes.
Main Tank Nominations: DaanS (NA), Hadi (EU), Helv (EU)
Off Tank Nominations: Cucumber (NA), iCy (NA), Molf1g (EU), Hafficool (EU)
Daniël “DaanS” Vincentius Paulus Scheltema currently plays for Revival and was also chosen to play for Team Netherlands at the Overwatch World Cup in 2019. DaanS was one of the best Hammond’s to watch in Contenders NA this month. It’s especially rare to find a main tank that is this flexible and an already experienced Hammond. It’s important for main tanks to lead fights and make the right calls, and Abdullah “IQB” Iqbal, Head Coach for Young and Beautiful in EU who has worked with Daans in the past, assures that he embodies that leadership role. DaanS’ teammate Adam “Dynasty” Elsheemy calls him “the best teammate he’s played with” because of his ability to translate his knowledge to his gameplay and team so well. DaanS’ presence in the frontline led Revival to a grand finals run this past October, making him an important name to consider for OWL tryouts during this off season.
Hadi Daniel “Hadi” Bleinagel, main tank player for British Hurricane, is the top nomination for best main tank in Europe. Hadi has been described as “so oppressive to play against” from coaches in the scene and a Hammond player so versatile that he can switch up his playstyle on a dime. Hadi is one of the most obvious choices of Main Tanks to sign with his level of experience, versatility on any hero, and the long list of first place finishes that can back it up. He has a well-earned respected reputation in EU and he won’t need any help finding a home in OWL.
Esteban “Helv” Fernandez plays on Obey Alliance, the second best team in Contenders Europe behind British Hurricane. Helv is incredibly flexible, intelligent, and has great mechanics on any tank he needs to play. His Reinhardt and Hammond have been especially deadly in the most recent October tournament. Helv was discovered from his time on Obey Alliance (rebranded from Raspberry Racers) and has shown tremendous potential while not having a coach or any guidance besides his own self review. Helv balances school, work, and can still put up great performances in Contenders. Christian “Heurix” Thomasser, veteran commentator in Contenders, thinks that Helv “often flies under the radar but his results cannot be dismissed” and that he could be “coached into hitting that next gear that will push his play even higher”.
Colin “Cucumber” Arai is the off tank player for American Tornado who are competing in Contenders North America. There were no arguments amongst the coaches consulted for this article that Cucumber is the best off tank in NA. In the most recent October tournament, Cucumber demonstrated his flexibility on D.Va, Sigma, and Roadhog. Daniel “Gods” Graeser, former OWL off tank and Coach for Revival, believes Cucumber is the best D.Va in NA. But Cucumber’s talent in-game doesn’t stop there. While working with Cucumber, Eric “Wheats” Perez, Head Coach for Noble in Contenders NA, said that he was the hardest working player and grinds the ladder more than anyone. Juan “SaltShaker” Costa, former player and current Coach for Odyssey in NA, compares Cucumber to Gator’s style of play, and that he “plays as oppressive as possible and controls how the other people play”. With this many coaches vouching for his performance in game and his work ethic out of game, Cucumber deserves a chance to prove that in OWL.
John “iCy” Kazura is the off tank player for Drifters who are also competing in Contenders North America. iCy is a veteran player that has been known for a long time as a gifted tank in Contenders. The synergy between iCy and his fellow main tank Jørgen “Decod” Myrlund is incredible to watch and they execute some of the cleanest dives in the league. He creates long-lasting friendships with the people he works with — Decod even calls him his “little brother”. While iCy may be amazing to work with, his skill in game doesn’t take a back seat. iCy’s Coaches Alex “byZenith” Ames and Nathan “Natter” Pitchaikani praise him for his solid work ethic and ability to work well under pressure. Natter specifies that iCy brings a “clutch factor” that will turn around fights in their favor. He’s vocal within a team environment and contributes to the strategic planning for their matches. iCy has been a popular off tank choice to build a team around since he is flexible in any meta. Any OWL team that isn’t looking into iCy is missing out.
Mikkel “Molf1g” Djernes is the off tank player for British Hurricane in Contenders Europe. Molf1g has been admired for a long time in Europe as a very intelligent D.Va player. Jacob “Spilo” Clifton calls him “the best off tank in EU” and IQB described how “calculated” Molf1g plays when he dives and peels for his team. Just like the rest of his British Hurricane teammates highlighted in this article, these players have the results to back up their reputation. There is no team in Europe that has been able to crack their win streak and most teams can agree that the strongest part about British Hurricane is their tank line. Molf1g is another player that will have no problem finding a home in OWL and will certainly lead them to victory like he has with British Hurricane.
Hafþór “Hafficool” Hákonarson is the off tank player for Young and Beautiful, also competing in Contenders Europe. Hafficool is a tank player who plays selflessly to protect his supports while applying constant pressure to Pharah, Mercy or Echo players in the sky. Cas “Casores” van Andel, former Young and Beautiful Head Coach, describes Hafficool as “a breath of fresh air” that brings a lot of great inputs to his teams. Casores believes that he possesses “great mechanics and a wide hero pool, which makes him a much desired off tank”. The other sources consulted for this article were all in agreement about Hafficool’s position as a top off tank in Contenders, especially on D.Va. With his long standing resume drawing back to early 2016, Hafficool has more than enough experience and skill to show that he deserves a home in OWL.
Judging DPS players from one another will be difficult as it depends on what an OWL team is looking for in their roster. A player who has a smaller hero pool doesn’t necessarily make them less likely to be signed if an OWL team requires their expertise on specific heroes. This section will be more controversial than the others because of the many subroles that exist. We will highlight those that have shown the highest aptitude in the heroes they do play, how coachable they are, and their potential to reach new heights with the right guidance.
Hitscan Nominations: Dove (NA), Phi (NA), SparkR (EU), Lethal (EU)
Flex Nominations: Dannedd (EU), Naga (EU)
Jesse “Dove” Palomo plays for Odyssey in Contenders North America, a team that has taken home two championships this season. Dove impressed on Tracer, Soldier:76, and Widowmaker during their grand final victory this past October. Wheats believes he has proven that he is “a premiere hitscan that can perform at an OWL level”. IQB insists that Dove is a clutch or carry DPS that doesn’t bring any attitude or ego problems to the team. It can be difficult to find a DPS player that is smart and cares about the game as much as Dove does. Dove is OWL eligible and should be included in the conversation if OWL teams are specifically looking at western DPS talent for their roster.
Philip “Phi” Handke is the hitscan specialist for Drifters in Contenders North America. Phi has already been featured as one of the best Widowmakers in NA, and also plays Ashe at a very high level. Phi is continuing to develop his hero pool by demonstrating more Tracer and Echo in official matches. Phi’s Head Coach on Drifters, Alex “byZenith” Ames, truly believes that “given more time Phi could walk over any other DPS in Contenders NA and EU”.
William “SparkR” Andersson plays for British Hurricane in Contenders Europe alongside Hadi and other all-star talent. SparkR isn’t OWL eligible at 17 years old, but has been overwhelmingly recommended by the coaches consulted for this article. Unlike other players in this role, SparkR can perform at the highest level on any hitscan from Widowmaker to Tracer and anything in between. He has near perfect synergy with his team and rarely makes mistakes. With results to back him up, the only question that remains about whether to sign SparkR to OWL is if he can still perform at this level on a different team, since he’s been on British Hurricane since mid 2019. There is no doubt that SparkR will have his choice of OWL teams to join once he turns 18.
Denis “Lethal” Tari is another big name to mention for hitscan DPS players in Europe. He currently competes with Obey Alliance. Spilo spoke at length about how great Lethal was to work with: “[Lethal] is a hilarious guy, hyper confident with a great sense of humor. He’s very coachable and works very hard.” Even when playing at high ping, Lethal can still adapt to the toughest of circumstances. British Hurricane Head Coach, Mads “fischer” Jehg, nominated Lethal for this list as one of the better hitscans in EU, but needs to perfect his decision making on certain heroes he plays. IQB worked with Lethal when he started his career in Open Division, and believes after all the growth he’s seen that “he’s definitely ready for some OWL tryouts”.
Daniel “Dannedd” Rosdahl is the flex DPS player for British Hurricane competing in Contenders Europe. Dannedd has been one of the most versatile flex DPS that can easily take the title of the best DPS in Contenders NA and EU. Most recently in October, Dannedd can be seen working in perfect unison with his fellow DPS player SparkR to coordinate around his Sombra EMP or finish off each other’s kills on Echo. Through each meta, Dannedd still dominated on Genji, Doomfist, Hanzo, and whatever is asked of him. The British Hurricane results speak for themselves. It should be considered a crime that someone like Dannedd is still in Contenders while being OWL eligible for years. There might be some competition for second best EU DPS flex but there should be no argument about Dannedd. There will be bidding wars about Dannedd and the OWL team that gets to keep him will be massively upgraded.
Nikolai “Naga” Dereli is the flex DPS player for Obey Alliance and also competed with Team Denmark at the Overwatch World Cup in 2019. Naga is described as someone who brings out the team spirit and a fun character to be around. His former Coach, Ilias “iLka” Kaskanetas, jokingly remembers: “His superpower is never tilting, and he’s always the guy you can count on when things are not going as you would like”. Of course he is also an incredible player with an insane Echo. If needed, Naga can step up and take a more important communicator role within the team. Fischer agrees he is a top player to consider in EU, and has the motivation to improve. Saltshaker believes he is a unique flex DPS because “he plays for map control and knows exactly what space he has and uses all of it”. ByZenith vouches for Naga’s work ethic, his intelligence, his ability to learn things quickly, and saw how Naga “dedicates his whole life to the game”. Naga absolutely deserves an OWL tryout and would be able to fill in any gaps that the team needs him to.
Main Support Nominations: Ojee (NA), Zholik (NA)
Flex Support Nominations: Ripa (EU), Skairipa (EU)
Christian “Ojee” Han is the main support player for American Tornado in Contenders North America. Ojee is by far the best mechanical main support player in the league. He is one of the most threatening Lucios to play against. Wheats went as far as saying “Ojee will go to any team he wants, and when he does he will be a top five main support in OWL”. Ojee can shotcall, ultimate track, and do it all for the team. Although Ojee is only 17 years old, he is worth taking the risk of investing into and will receive many bids when he becomes OWL eligible.
Blake “Zholik” Solberg is the main support player for Drifters also competing in Contenders North America. Zholik has been a consistent top main support in Contenders for a long time. He is the captain for Drifters and acts as an important pillar for the team by keeping them calm and composed during high pressure situations. He communicates his strategic ideas with his coaches and heavily involves himself in the growth of the team. Spilo who has worked with him in the past believes he will be an important asset to an OWL team: “Zholik would help an OWL team win games because of his personality alone”. Zholik is already OWL eligible and his maturity and leadership are qualities that a lot of OWL teams would benefit from.
Riku “Ripa” Toivanen is the flex support player for British Hurricane in Contenders Europe. Ripa spent a year in OWL under the LA Gladiators banner during the 2019 season. There is no question that Ripa possesses the mechanical skill to be at the top of this list. Ripa’s Head Coach Fischer explains that Ripa “doesn’t have a weak hero” and “always looks for new ways to improve or innovate the way he plays”. His team believes that he’s very easy to work with, and will admit fault when he makes mistakes. He continuously pushes for improvement with himself and his team, making him a valuable member of British Hurricane. There was no debate on whether Ripa should be included in this list. After almost a year back in Contenders without losing a series with British Hurricane, he absolutely deserves a second chance to prove himself in OWL.
Robert “Skairipa” Lupsa is the flex support player for Young and Beautiful, also playing in Contenders Europe. Skairipa has had impressive results with his former team Obey Alliance and current team Young and Beautiful, as they just recently finished third in the October tournament. He is most known for being a dangerous Zenyatta and a clutch Baptiste player for his team. His Coach IQB compares him to an “EU Viol2t” that will “out DPS any Zen statistically in Contenders”. Harry “LEGDAY” Pollitt, veteran Contenders commentator, thinks Skairipa is the “definition of a reliable teammate across any meta”. Given the chance, Skairipa would bring any OWL team to a new level and with the right coaching could become a top flex support in OWL.
The future stars of the Overwatch League begin their careers in Contenders. During this off season, OWL teams should be considering developing fresh talent as veteran players begin to retire. Below are some names that deserve recognition but couldn’t fit on this list.
Otto “Milkyman” Saren (19 years old) – Square One Main Tank
Kamden “Sugarfree” Hijada (16 years old) – American Tornado Flex DPS
Victor “Yiqids” Skretteberg (16 years old) – Young and Beautiful Flex DPS
Jamie “Backbone” O’Neill (17 years old) – Sheer Cold Flex DPS
Kristian “Kellex” Keller (21 years old) – British Hurricane Main Support
Benjamin “UltraViolet” David (16 years old) – American Tornado Flex Support
Emir “Kaan” Okumus (20 years old) – Obey Alliance Flex Support