By: Matt Giffen
UPDATE: Congratulations to Finland’s Erik Tammenpaa who swept the best-of-3 final against David Roebuck to win the inaugural championship and $50,000. Read more about the competition and watch all the highlights.
On March 9th the NHL shocked the eSports world announcing the NHL Gaming World Championships, with a prize pool of $100,000. In addition, NBC Sports, Sportsnet and Viasat would each host a regional event in their respective markets. On June 19th 6 finalists will fly to Las Vegas, attend the NHL awards and go head-to-head at the all new eSports Arena for their share of 100k.
This tournament has not only caught the attention of the entire hockey world but something that’s been missing from the NHL scene forever, eSports Organizations. Teams along the names of SetToDestroyX, GGSimplicity, HelsinkiREDS and the biggest competitive NHL platform in the world LeagueGaming have signed NHL players to contracts. To put this tournament into perspective, earlier this year WorldGaming teamed up with the Ed Snider foundation to run a NHL tournament that had a prize pool of $17,500. This was the biggest tournament the NHL Community had seen in over five years. The NHL Gaming World Championship would last over 4 months starting with players competing in online qualifiers on the platform FACEIT. FACEIT was left with the difficult task of managing an eSports title they weren’t familiar with. The NHL was also left with the never ending debate of 1v1 or 6v6. They chose to go with 1v1 versus and made the right decision doing so. It allows the NHL to gauge how big the competitive community actually is. 1v1 versus has no boundaries, allowing anyone from anywhere to compete.
I personally think 6v6 is the future of NHL eSports but the right choice to pioneer the scene was 1v1 versus. The NHL chose to run 4 weeks of best of 1, single elimination brackets. The community was concerned due to the inconsistency of NHL 18, that it would be difficult for the best players to qualify. You had to potentially win 11 games in a row to book your ticket to the live Regionals. You could argue this wasn’t the case as all 3 Regional finals had elite players competing at highest level. After 3 intense weeks in Stockholm, Toronto and Connecticut we’re now down to the top 6 NHL players in the world. It’s finally time to end the decade long debate of who breeds the best chel players in the world, North America or Europe. Here are the 6 remaining players in the NHL Gaming World Championship.
1st Erik Tammenpaa “Eki”
Eki, the 18 year old from Espoo, Finland is as good as they get when it comes to competitive NHL in Europe. Eki has been playing NHL since 2007 and started taking it more serious in NHL 14. Eki went undefeated in the European Regional, taking out one of Euros finest Pleemaker in the upper bracket finals. After the tournament Eki wasted no time announcing Plee as his coach for the World Finals in Las Vegas. They play on the same EASHL team in NHL 18 and hope the chemistry will carry over to the World Finals. Since then Eki has signed with the Finnish eSports organization HelsinkiREDS.
2nd Arttu Mustila “Artuzio”
Artuzio, the 2nd player to qualify from Europe is 20 years old from Lempaala, Finland. Artuzio has been playing NHL since 13 and says his favorite game is NHL 18. He had arguably the toughest road out of any of the 3 Regions. Artuzio lost round 1 to the Champion Eki sending him to an extremely hard loser’s bracket run. He had to win 4 games in a row versus the likes of European favorites Hansulinho and Pleemaker.
1st Nicola Bruna “Fool”
Fool, is a 23 year old Frenchman from Montreal, Quebec. He in my opinion is the most creative player of the 6. Maybe it has to do with the fact that Fool has been playing since NHL 94. Fools ability to create plays and finesse the puck into open space in NHL is like no other. The member of SetToDestroyX went undefeated in his respective region defeating some high caliber names like Odie and YungGren. Fools success has continued since qualifying as he won the Dubz eSports tournament in Montreal. This NHL mastermind will definitely have a few tricks up his sleeve come Vegas.
2nd Matthew Grenier “YungGren”
YungGren, is coming in as the youngest of the bunch at just the age of 16. Don’t let his age fool you because this kid is a power house. Gren was born and raised in Texas but has recently moved to Quebec. He didn’t start playing NHL until NHL 15 and it wasn’t until late 17, early 18 that he was really recognized for his talents. He won the Ed Snider Cup in March and hasn’t looked back since. Gren and his org GGSimplicity are hoping to ride this momentum to the World Finals in Vegas.
1st John Wayne “JohnWayne”
John Wayne, is a 27 year old from Anchorage, Alaska. Yes, you heard me right Alaska. John has been the breakout player of NHL 18. He came into the Regionals flying under the radar and boy did he catch players by surprise. John cruised through the regionals without dropping a single game. He also announced a new chapter in his life signing with LeagueGaming for all upcoming NHL eSports events, including the World Finals. After being recognized on Twitter by not only his favorite team the Arizona Coyotes but by his hockey idols Shane Doan and Clayton Keller, John hopes to continue his Cinderella story and become the NHL World Champion.
2nd David Roebuck “JrPens”
JrPens is a diehard Penguins fan from Forty Fort, Pennsylvania. The 21 year old has been around the NHL scene for awhile placing 5th in the Ed Snider Cup. JrPens favorite player is Sidney Crosby and he tries to incorporate his work ethic and smarts into his own life and gameplay. This SetToDestroyX member found himself beating TopShelfCookie booking the final spot in the World Finals.
Not much of a surprise here that I have YungGren at number 1 who will be crowned the World Champion on June 20th. Gren has proven time and time again he’s the best NHL 18 player in the world. His ability to score at his own will is like no other. If you ever give Gren a scoring opportunity it’s in the back of your net. He will constantly pull off moves you didn’t even know were in the game. With that being said Gren finds most of his success on defense. He’s mastered the AI switch off that drive opposing players crazy. None of the other 5 players can match up with Gren overall. He also tends to play mind games with the other players that includes friendly banter. He may come off as a shy and humble kid but he’s as cocky and confident as they get. I spoke to Gren earlier this week and he told he straight up “Bones listen, I don’t lose on LAN.” June 20th, the 16 year old YungGren will be $50,000 richer and crowned The NHL Gaming World Champion.
Eki will face off against Gren in a Final of the ages. This will be the most anticipated match up in NHL eSports history. North Americas best vs Europeans best. When you think of European chel players you think of names like Dominointi, Hansulinho and Pleemaker but don’t count out Eki. He moves the puck like no other and has extremely fast thumbs. I think a lot of his success has to do with being a great 6v6 players. I spoke with one of Europeans best Dominointi about Eki earlier this week. Domi told me “both European players will do well but overall Eki is definitely the player to watch.” Eki also has some of the best overall defense in the game. His trap makes it very irritating to play against. The only way I see Eki beating Gren is if he plays shutdown Defense for a full 60 minutes. Ekis fast paced European offense could throw off Gren, so his main priority should be not letting up goals. Eki will make Europe proud but will fall short in the finals to Gren who is just too skilled overall.
The Canadian region had the most talent going into the online qualifiers so it shouldn’t be any surprise that I have 2 Canadians in my top 3. Fool is right up there with the other top 2 players skill wise. You simply can’t count out Fool due to the fact that he’s been playing since NHL 94. The most creative of the bunch, Fool will drop saucer passes into impossible areas to create scoring opportunities. The OG also beat Gren 6-3 in the upper bracket finals to qualify for the World Finals which says a lot. He went on to win the Regional but it was said they agreed to split the money so that outcome was for banter and is irrelevant. Fool has a chance to win if he sticks to his game plan. I’d say anywhere out of the top 3 would be a disappointment for Fool and his team SetToDestroyX.
John is my World Finals dark horse. The oldest competitor from Alaska is coming into Vegas hiding all of his cards. Going into the Regionals, top players doubted Johns abilities because of the poor internet connection he plays online. John forces himself and most of his opponents to play on a high PING due to living in Alaska. Players would argue John had gotten used to the delay and they weren’t, so therefore John had the online advantage. It’s safe to say Johns silenced that speculation after his LAN performance in Connecticut going undefeated. He plays a fast pased offensive game and has a 5 man trap when defending. He’ll gain the zone and cycle the puck around until his opponent bites and the perfect play opens up. I don’t know if John has the defensive ability to keep up with players like Gren and Eki but he’s already proven everyone wrong once so what’s stopping him from doing it again. John will also have 30,000 of LGs faithful cheering him on come the World Finals. I could see John falling short of his dreams and underperforming or having the day of his life and Finishing on top. It all depends on which JohnWayne decides to show up June 19th.
Both Americans happen to fall in my bottom three. The other two regions had a lot more skilled competitors and tougher competition. With that being said JrPens is a very solid all around player. From speaking to the community JrPens has been preparing for this tournament the most. He’s recently blown up the internet doing interview after interview by multiple sources including WBS Penguins and WNEP. I spoke to a few players from the USA Regional who said before the event JrPens was in practice mode working on his 2 on 1s for hours. JrPens isn’t afraid to take that turd shot we all love and hate that will go in from time to time in NHL 18. There’s no question he knows the game inside and out, I just don’t think he’ll be able to keep up with the fire power of the other 5 competitors. The 2nd SetToDestoryX member will stick to his game plan but it just won’t be enough.
Last but not least we have the 2nd European finalist, Artuzio. Ranking Artuzio last out of the bunch shouldn’t take away from his talent. If you ask me being ranked 6th in the world isn’t too bad. Artuzio has proved to everyone he can keep up with the competition at the European Regional in Stockholm. Losing in the 1st round Artuzio had to win 4 games in a row versus some of the best players in the world. Artuzio plays a very passive game on defense, he will play rushes manually but takes advantage of the new defensive skill stick in the slot to break up passes. On offense he’s very good with the saucer pass and cycles the puck patiently. Artuzio is a monster on offense but seems to fall off defensively which is why I have him ranked 6th.
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