Breakout Potential: 5 LCS players to watch closely this summer

by theScore Staff May 26 2016
Thumbnail image courtesy of Riot Games/lolesports / NA LCS Spring 2016 / Riot Games

Every season is a new beginning, another chance for every team and every player to show their growth and improvement and compete at an even higher level.

Here are five League Championship Series players worth watching closely this summer, each with the potential to take a big step in their development, whether that means evolving from a rookie role player into a reliable veteran, or from a respectable talent into a legitimate star.

Felix "Betsy" Edling, Mid Lane, Roccat, EU LCS

KDA  KP  [email protected]  DMG
3.0  72.8%  +6.9  30.9%

Stats from 2016 spring regular season

It’s tough to stand out as an EU LCS mid laner. When Betsy entered the LCS in 2015, he was just one of many challengers to the domestic excellence of Henrik “Froggen” Hansen, Enrique “xPeke” Cedeño Martínez, Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten and others.

Luckily for Betsy, spring 2016 saw the EU LCS mid lane talent pool thin out a little, both through departures, like Froggen’s move to the NA LCS and xPeke’s step into team management, and declines in level of play, like the poorer performances of Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage and Isaac “xPePii” Flores. Betsy stepped into that void admirably, asserting himself as the strongest member of a Roccat roster that wasn’t exactly turning heads.

In the 2016 spring regular season, Betsy led all EU LCS mid laners in CSD at 10, topped the starting mid laner charts in damage share, and produced the second-highest gold share, all while making few mistakes and keeping his death share low.

Arguably, Betsy has already had his breakout split, but it’s difficult to give too much credit to a player without team success to back it up. Now that Betsy has been paired with a great clean-up AD carry in Steeelback, he has the potential to start dominating the league, though that will also depend on how smoothly Roccat is able to integrate its two new Korean imports, Lee “Parang” Sang-won and Oh “Raise” Ji-hwan.

Michael "Bunny Fufuu" Kurylo, Support, Cloud9, NA LCS

4.0  76.6%  20.3%  1.23

Stats from 2015 summer regular season

Bunny Fufuu has been in and around the NA LCS since 2014, when he briefly made an appearance with Team Curse (before they became Team Liquid). Since his arrival, he has been known as a talented player, but there’s always been a sense that he has more room to grow.

Playing with Gravity in 2015, Bunny Fufuu got to learn from veterans like Brandon “Saintvicious” DiMarco and David “Cop” Roberson. When those veteran leaders left the team ahead of the summer split, Bunny Fufuu found himself in a larger role as a playmaker and shotcaller. He stepped up to the challenge, impressing on skillshot-plus-peel champions like Thresh, Morgana and Shen, but lacking some diversity in his champion pool and playstyle.

Spring 2016 saw Bunny Fufuu join Cloud9 to share play time with Hai “Hai” Lam, but after just two games —both losses — Bunny wound up on the bench because of Cloud9’s desperate reliance on Hai’s in-game leadership. After a shakeup of the Cloud9 roster, Bunny Fufuu has been penciled back into a starter’s role, and is surrounded by high-calibre talent.

Bunny Fufuu should have every chance to succeed this split, assuming the coaching staff has the patience to let the new lineup gel before resurrecting another ghost of Cloud9 past. If Bunny has used his spring downtime well, and improved his versatility along with his already strong mechanics and game sense, this could be the season he blossoms into one of North America’s stronger homegrown players.

Anthony "Hard" Barkhovtsev, Jungle, Echo Fox, NA LCS

3.7  73.6%  50%  0.75

Stats from 2016 spring regular season

When Echo Fox entered the LCS last split, there wasn't much reason to get excited around their roster beyond their big-name mid laner, Froggen. As the split played out, though, and especially as visa issues plagued the team, some other bright spots began to emerge. One of those bright spots was Hard, a jungler who had spent time with Cloud9 Tempest in the Challenger scene in 2015. Though Hard didn't exactly light up the map with Echo Fox, he put in a series of strong, steady performances.

By the end of the split, Hard had accumulated the second-best KDA ratio on his team, behind Froggen, and had racked up the third-highest First Blood rate among NA LCS starters, continuing a trend of strong First Blood numbers that he had established in Challenger. He also had the lowest death share of all NA LCS junglers and the third-highest CS per minute.

If Hard can add a little more playmaking and proactivity to his game, he could blossom into one of the NA LCS's strongest junglers, and in so doing, fill a niche that Echo Fox sorely needs if they want to become a more well-rounded team.

Park "kfo" Jeong-hun, Top Lane, Echo Fox, NA LCS

2.5  62.4%  25.4%  15.5%

Stats from 2016 spring regular season

Like his teammate Hard, kfo entered the NA LCS last split in Froggen’s shadow, but there was a bit more discussion around kfo because of his status as a Korean solo queue star, always an intriguing label to bear because of the skill potential that it implies, offset against a lack of structured competitive experience and the likelihood of communication challenges.

Along with most of his teammates, kfo also faced some visa issues that kept him out of the lineup for a few weeks. When kfo returned from his exile, though, he arrived in style, showing a great engage sense on Malphite in a pair of games, and later breaking out a pocket Kayle pick to carry a win over Team Impulse in week 6, showing creativity and diversity in his champion pool and playstyle. Despite a delayed start, he was setting a pace that might have had him in the Rookie of the Split conversation. Unfortunately, kfo and his team had trouble maintaining consistency over the last few weeks of the split, as their schedule grew tougher.

With more roster stability and practice time, and assuming that his teammates continue to grow alongside him, kfo has the talent to break out as a top laner to be reckoned with. Whether that includes more surprise Kayle games remains to be seen.

Kang “Move” Min-su, Jungle, Unicorns of Love, EU LCS

3.1  70.8%  21%  1.01

Stats from 2015 summer regular season

Like many teams before and since, Team Gravity took a risk on a Korean solo queue star when they signed Move for the 2015 summer split. Move showed more good than bad in his play, and drew a fair amount of praise for his mid-season form, which saw Gravity topping the regular season standings for two weeks straight. In the end, though, inexperience and predictability cost Gravity in the postseason, and both the Gravity brand and Move himself faded away. Now Move is back with the Unicorns of Love, and ready to prove that he played a bigger part in Gravity’s successes than he did in their failures.

In the 2015 summer regular season, Move averaged the third-highest damage per minute and damage share among NA LCS junglers, partly as a result of playing four games on Nidalee, in which he put up a 3-1 record and 413 DPM. With Nidalee and other carry junglers a bigger part of the meta than ever in 2016, Move might find himself right at home and ready to succeed.

Move also recorded the second-highest wards per minute among NA LCS junglers last summer. His focus on the vision game could be especially valuable for the Unicorns of Love as a way to prevent mindset-sapping mistakes within a roster that will need time to settle into its three new players.

If UoL are able to challenge for a playoff spot this split, Move will likely be at the centre of many of their wins, but if Move struggles in his return to the competitive scene, UoL may be in for a bumpy ride.

Tim "Magic" Sevenhuysen runs, the premier source for League of Legends esports statistics. You can find him on Twitter, unless he’s busy giving one of his three sons a shoulder ride.