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CS:GO rising talent of 2019 revisited

HLTV.org's top 20 CS:GO players of last year made their bold predictions for 2019. Now it is time to look back at each of the picks and how the year has been for them.
The top 20 CS:GO players of the year is always an interesting and fiercly debated list when released, ranking players based on individual form with the results of their team also taken into account.

Each of the top twenty players of last year made bold predictions for players they expected to see great things from in the upcoming year and near future and this article will look at each of them, review their year and consider the players most likely to feature in the predictions this January. 

This is something of a sequel to 2018's talent revisited and there are some named players who did indeed make the list as predicted, so we can expect a few players below to feature themselves next month.

 

Ismail "refrezh" Ali

Picked by: valde, autimatic, Xyp9x, GuardiaN, Magisk, dupreeh

Standing in for Cloud9 at the end of 2018 for BLAST Pro Series Lisbon brought refrezh to the attention of many in the community and clearly left an impact on multiple pros watching him.

On 31st December, refrezh was signed by OpTic Gaming and started 2019 under the troubled organisation alongside the likes of Kristian "k0nfig" Wienecke and Marco "Snappi" Pfeiffer.

The first LAN victory for OpTic at DreamHack Open Summer came too late for the team, as they were up for sale due to Immortals Gaming Club's acquisition of Infinite Esports & Entertainment.

After René "cajunb" Borg stood in for refrezh while he was on vacation, Mathias "MSL" Lauridsen announced the roster swap two days after qualifying for ESL One New York that left the young talent teamless.

Refrezh is now sat in limbo on the 'OpTic Gaming' bench, seeking a new team while waiting out his contract in 2020.

 

Jere "sergej" Salo

Picked by: suNny, coldzera, NiKo, device

Missing from the previous year’s list of bold predictions, the young Finnish player has been a solid pillar for ENCE’s success in 2019.

Kicking off the year with a run at IEM Katowice 2019 that saw Team Liquid evaporate and Natus Vincere crumble, sergej became the youngest ever Major finalist.

ENCE were the winners of BLAST Pro Series Madrid and got their revenge by lifting the trophy over Astralis with a solid 2-0 win that included breaking the Danish side's 31-game win Nuke streak.

Replacing in-game leader Aleksi "Aleksib" Virolainen with former mousesports star Miikka "suNny" Kemppi, one of the players who picked him as their bold prediction for this year, has not yet yielded fruit for the Finns and sergej's own climb and consistency in 2019 has been overshadowed by the next name on the list.

 

Mathieu "ZywOo" Herbaut

Picked by: ropz

ZywOo was actually absent from the 2018 list of bold predictions despite being set to join his first team after months of hype surrounding his debut. Speculation about his legitimacy might have contributed to his exclusion.

At the start of 2019, ZywOo had only just joined Team Vitality, a French team with iconic names from the scene but the young prodigy had a lot to prove in his first professional year.

Since the addition of Alex "ALEX" McMeekin, Vitality won cs_summit 4, ECS Season 7 Finals and made the grand finals of ESL One Cologne.

ZywOo claimed the MVP medals at all three events as well as at DreamHack Masters Malmö despite Fnatic being the winners of the event. His ability to carry Vitality, often kicking and screaming, all the way to finals of top tier LANs was unmatched.

EPICENTER 2019 was the final event for ZywOo this year and he added another medal to his collection, finishing the year with five overall following his professional debut in October 2018.

Becoming a contender for one of the best players of all-time in the opening months of his career, ZywOo will undoubtably finish high on the 2019 list of top 20 players and many expect the Frenchman to take the top spot over both Nicolai "device" Reedtz and Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev.

 

Owen "oBo" Schlatter

Picked by: EliGE

As predicted by Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski who stated oBo would only be able to play from the middle of 2019, it has been a notable half a year for the young player.

At 15 and having never left the US, oBo stepped up at his first big LAN on a team he had known for only a week previously.

The FPL star was signed to Complexity just before the ECS Season 7 Finals following the departure of Peter "stanislaw" Jarguz for NRG Esports.

In the building of the promised juggernaut, oBo has remained on the roster as k0nfig, Benjamin "blameF" Bremer, Will "RUSH" Wierzba and Valentin "poizon" Vasilev joined the project.

This makes oBo the longest-standing member of Complexity Gaming's CS:GO roster.

With Complexity confirmed as one of the 12 BLAST Premier teams for 2020, the Counter-Strike scene is going to be seeing a lot more of oBo soon enough.

 

Cvetelin "CeRq" Dimitrov

Picked by: Twistzz

Named as 'one for the future' by HLTV back in 2017, the future is now for the Bulgarian AWPer.

After a nomination for 'Rookie of the Year' at the Esports Awards 2018, CeRq has been showing his gained experience throughout the last year.

NRG had been a top ten contender for the year, struggling to make finals despite winning IEM Shanghai and cs_summit 3 the previous year.

In June, Damian "daps" Steele was replaced by stanislaw and NRG began to develop under new leadership.

When picked up by EG, saw a transformation for the roster, won two finals and the playoff nerves seem to be a concern CeRq is looking to leave in the past.

Finishing the year as the 18th best player, CeRq believes CR4ZY's own Bulgarian star Georgi "SHiPZ" Grigorov will be one to watch.

 

Vincent "Brehze" Cayonte 

Picked by: NAF (as part of the NRG trio including CeRq and Ethan)          

While Keith "NAF" Markovic picked Brehze as his bold prediction, he did expand upon that to include the full NRG trio.

Brehze, CeRq and Ethan "Ethan" Arnold have been a dangerous core throughout 2019 and it is ironic that in a great year for Team Liquid, this trio would be a key part in the success for their closest domestic rival.

NRG had emerged as the second best North American team in 2018 as Cloud9 crumbled after the ELEAGUE Boston Major and 2019 saw changes allow them to take the top spot this year, albeit only for two weeks, following their move to Evil Geniuses.

While results under EG have already been delivered, it will be a worrying 2020 if Brehze failing to find his usual form continues to damage their results.

We can expect to still find the NRG star on this year's top 20 due to his performance at ESL One New York earning him the MVP medal at the event.

 

Dzhami "Jame" Ali

Picked by: gla1ve

Jame's rise has been a long time coming.

Spawned a meme in 2019, with Twitch chat spamming ‘JAME’ when players elect to save a weapon instead of attempting a retake.

AVANGAR saw changes but seemed less of a threat this year until a sudden performance at the Major saw them go up against Astralis in the Grand Final of the StarLadder Berlin Major.

While they failed to take down the Danish giants, AVANGAR won BLAST Pro Series Moscow following the withdrawal of Team Vitality allowing both Wild Card teams to compete in the main event, only for the CIS competitors to eventually clash in the grand final.

Jame earned his first MVP award in Moscow and finished 2019 with an average LAN rating of 1.21 and only achieved two negative event ratings towards the end of the year.

 

Alexey "qikert" Golubev

Picked by: electronic

A long-standing member of AVANGAR, qikert has previously held far more of the spotlight than he did in 2019.

Throughout 2017, qikert was AVANGAR's best player and Jame was yet to come into his own. It wasn't until 2018 that AVANGAR started to rise up and qikert saw IEM Katowice 2019 mark his first Major following the team's near-flawless surge through the CIS Minor process.

It wasn't until DreamHack Open Rio where domestic hopefuls and a future threat in FURIA were defeated by qikert and AVANGAR and the side looked stronger against international opponents.

He now joins the rest of his team in the switch from AVANGAR to Virtus.pro, who is returning to its CIS roots after numerous notable years with a Polish roster.

 

İsmailcan "XANTARES" Dörtkardeş

Picked by: s1mple   

XANTARES signed to BIG in 2019 but was met with communication issues many expected had limited him in the past from joining international rosters.

With no practice, those around him in the team didn’t hide the issues they had been facing since his addition.

With BIG now signing two German players, Nils "k1to" Gruhne and  Florian "syrsoN" Rische while removing British AWPer Owen "smooya" Butterfield, this time seemingly for good, it seems likely XANTARES will now be communicating in German thanks to lessons he has been taking since at least July 2019.

As Fatih "gob b" Dayik has now also since retired, XANTARES' time on BIG in 2020 looks set to be yet another big test for the individual player and the team as a whole.

The Turkish star has not looked the same since his long tenure on Space Soldiers and his second year will need to outshine his initial international debut to keep his future bright.

 

Ludvig "Brollan" Brolin

Picked by: KRIMZ

At 16 years old and after high praise from the pro scene, Brollan was signed by Fnatic at the end of 2018. The introduction of young blood into the usually restricted inner circle of Swedish CS was long overdue.

Fnatic's rollercoaster year reached an all-time low for the organisation culminating in the team going off the tracks, failing to make the StarLadder Berlin Major after a fourth place finish in the Europe Minor at the hands of CR4ZY.

Victory at DreamHack Masters Malmö followed the return of Maikil "Golden" Selim to the lineup, but it was ZywOo not Brollan that was the young star to take the MVP medal.

The young Swede was able to finish 19th on the list of best players in 2019 and picked countryman and NiP prospect Nicolas "Plopski" Gonzalez Zamora as his own bold prediction.

 

Håkon "hallzerk" Fjærli

Picked by: rain

A fellow Norweigan was picked by Håvard "rain" Nygaard in the form of hallzerk.

One lesser-known fact about hallzerk is that he has the longest known legit win-streak on FACEIT, with 136 consecutive games won between July 16th and October 24th 2018.

Having been with Nordavind since early 2018, the signing of Jesper "tenzki" Plougmann, Ruben "RUBINO" Villarroel, Haakon "Radifaction" Tholo and  Jørgen "cromen" Robertsen a year later looked set to be a huge upgrade for the Norweigian organisation.

Three small LANs saw hallzerk deliver solid ratings including finishing the Telia League Spring 2019 event as the highest rated player as Nordavind saw some roster changes throughout the year.

Nordavind managed to climb the ladder and reach MDL at the end of 2019 without losing a map.

Rumours suggest the 19-year-old has been recruited by Dignitas for their return to CS:GO, reuniting the iconic NiP players under their banner alongside the young talent.

 

Ľuboš "HenkkyG" Ilko

Picked by: oskar

Definitely not linked to the fragmovie posted on Reddit shortly before the top 20 list was released, Tomáš "oskar" Šťastný chose HenkkyG and expressed high hopes for the 

On eSuba since 2015, besides a six month gap in the middle of 2018, the 22-year-old has not done what many in the region have done and jump into CIS or EU mix teams to further his career just yet. 

HenkkyG has plenty of LAN experience at smaller tournaments in his native region but his statistics do not suggest he is an untapped talent trapped in the lower levels of the scene there.

Currently in FPL-C, the upcoming changes for FPL could see HenkkyG rise or fall depending on what is being changed in 2020.

 

Which bold prediction impressed you most in 2019? Which names do you expect to see rise up in 2020? Let us know in the comments below!