HLTV Award Show: Nominees for panel awards unveiled
The votes from our 31 experts have been tallied up to give a shortlist of three players for each award.
Over the last few weeks, our panel has been voting on each of the categories to whittle down a longlist into a shortlist of three people for each of the following: Anchor, AWPer, IGL, Opener, Closer, and Coach. Though all votes are now locked in, we will wait until the show on the 14th of January to announce the winners, and this article will provide just the three-name shortlist for each award.
Each panel expert, with representatives from top 20 teams, talent, and HLTV writers, was asked to rank their top three nominees for each award, with 1st place offering five points, 2nd three points, and 3rd just one point. These points are then tallied up to give a final winner and podium of nominees. For more details on each label, as well as the panel itself, we would refer you to the article below; this one is just for the nominees.
Anchor of the year
The requirements for this award were to play in at least three 'supportive' CT-positions, most of which are either small or big site anchors. These are positions from which it is difficult to earn a spot in our Top 20, yet they are incredibly valuable in-game and are required in any 'best five of the year' attempt. The criteria upon which our panel voted was entirely up to them, and we are left with three players:
Keith "NAF" Markovic
Ilya "Perfecto" Zalutskiy
Rasmus "sjuush" Beck
NAF fulfilled the requirement by anchoring B on four maps (Mirage, Vertigo, Ancient and Dust2), a shift enforced by the addition of Mareks "YEKINDAR" Gaļinskis to Liquid. With Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski in the other rotation spots, it was NAF who had to sacrifice some positions. His performance this year is worthy of note, given that context: He had the highest KPR and ADR in our longlist, and earned 1 EVP and 7 VPs this year.
sjuush also impressed in tough positions. 22% of his deaths were traded, and a 1.14 CT-rating is impressive given he occupied 'supportive' positions on all six maps Heroic consistently played. He was an important cog in the BLAST Fall Finals run, recording 1.37, 1.30, and 1.28 ratings in map three of the quarter-final, semi-final, and grand final.
Perfecto is another player who is uber-reliable in tough positions. His 75.3% KAST is up there with passive AWPers, a statline built upon his supremacy in support rounds — 25.9% (3rd). He is Natus Vincere's fourth piece, the glue that holds their star trio together.
AWPer of the year
Three heavy-hitters qualified for our AWPer of the year award, so it is worth remembering that the panel award does not affect our Top 20 list and that our panel are voting on their own criteria.
Dmitry "sh1ro" Sokolov
Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev
Mathieu "ZywOo" Herbaut
sh1ro topped s1mple in most statistical measures, though his year came without as many consistent deep runs into playoffs as s1mple. In pure AWPing metrics, sh1ro does beat out this competition with 0.41 AWP KPR compared to 0.34 for s1mple and 0.32 for ZywOo but that is as much a reflection of the other two's rifling prowess as sh1ro's with the big green. Still, on LAN filters, Big Event filters, top 10, top 5: sh1ro stays right with the big two.
s1mple had yet another year of excellence. His lowest-rated event of the year was at BLAST Premier World final with a 1.10 rating, a floor other players dream of having. 0.83 KPR is the highest of all players, his gap of 0.03 to ZywOo and sh1ro amounting to a full kill over a 30-round map. It was not quite at his 2021 peak, but it is fairly likely that no player will ever reach that water mark.
ZywOo, despite a slow start by his standards in the now-English speaking Vitality, also ended up on a par with s1mple and sh1ro statistically by the end of the year. A mark against him is his failure to appear in the playoffs of either Major, Cologne, Katowice, or BLAST World Final, but his 1.42 rating MVP at the 16th season of ESL Pro League was a peak even higher than what his competition reached.
IGL of the year
This category is one where statistics are not much help. Our experts instead relied on their eye tests, deciding which IGL elevated their team the most directly through their calling. The final three are:
Casper "cadiaN" Møller
Finn "karrigan" Andersen
Dzhami "Jame" Ali
karrigan has the trophies, his FaZe side going on a streak at the start of 2022 to grab four big events going into the summer break. In close matches with Natus Vincere, it was FaZe who prevailed time after time. In firepower, the sides were close, with Natus Vincere maybe even having a small advantage, meaning karrigan deserves even more credit for 2022.
Jame's crowning achievement is his Major MVP and victory in Rio, where he claimed the trophy that eluded him in Berlin. His Outsiders team were heavy underdogs beforehand, but as upsets rolled in, and Outsiders dispatched of anyone that were put in front of them, the Major became inevitable. After losing star player YEKINDAR and Timur "buster" Tulepov after the Antwerp Major, the rebuild with Petr "fame" Bolyshev and David "n0rb3r7" Danielyan started without expectation. Just a few months later, they were Major champions.
cadiaN, an AWPing IGL like Jame, also defined his team in 2022. The charismatic captain is clearly a leader of men within Heroic, cultivating a culture of unity within the team that shattered Astralis' monopoly over Denmark. Winning the Fall Finals in Copenhagen may not make up for the lost Major final in Rio, but defeating FaZe in a close final is something no other team managed in 2022. That it was on home soil makes it only the more cathartic.
Opener of the year
In the opener category, we feature the star aggressive riflers that power their teams in the early-round. None are traditional entry fraggers, but they are all part of the 'pack', or map control group, on at least three maps to qualify for the award.
Nikola "NiKo" Kovač
Martin "stavn" Lund
Mareks "YEKINDAR" Gaļinskis
NiKo earned his first big event title since 2019 with BLAST World Final, which capped another year of individual brilliance. 1.31 Impact, largely stemming from 0.15 opening kills per round and 0.195 multi-kills per round, is as good as any of his best years, as is his 1.22 rating. It was a year of ups and downs for G2, missing the IEM Rio Major, but NiKo will go into 2023 confident that there is a unit around him capable of the biggest titles.
stavn's event sheet for 2022 is also a sea of green. Often Heroic's trade fragger rather than entry, he still qualifies for this award due to his role in the map control group of Heroic in most if not all maps. In that role he has evolved into one of the most consistent riflers in the world, performing well in all five rating subcategories: 1.19 Impact, 83.7 ADR, 73.3% KAST in addition to a 0.75-0.64 kills and deaths per round.
The final opener is YEKINDAR, the self-titled "space creator" and a player who has made opening duels his forte. At an attempt percentage of 33.1% — only Andrei "arT" Piovezan attempts more duels than YEKINDAR in the early round — shows the lengths YEKINDAR will go to in order to have impact on the game. It results in a 1.30 Impact rating, 0.17 opening kills per round, and a kill every 93.7 seconds he was alive in 2022.
Closer of the year
Where the opener award is for players in the map control group, the closer of the year goes to the players who operate on the extremities. Sergey "Ax1Le" Rykhtorov is the most aggressive candidate, to the extent that he is often grouped with the likes of NiKo as an opener. Yet, the only map he is often part of the pack is Inferno around Banana; his aggression elsewhere comes out of lurks up B Stairs on Vertigo, or B Monster or Short on Overpass. As such, he is a better fit in the Closer category.
Sergey "Ax1Le" Rykhtorov
Kaike "KSCERATO" Cerato
Robin "ropz" Kool
Ax1Le, now he is established as a closer, is deservedly in the top three. He has a 1.21 rating this term, and like stavn has solid marks in all five sub-categories you can see on a player's profile. Against top-five opponents, that rating increases to a ridiculous 1.29, in part thanks to his averaging a 1.23 rating against FaZe this year in 13 maps. For context, s1mple only has a 1.18, and ZywOo 1.22.
KSCERATO, like Ax1Le, exploded with all the potential he had shown in prior years in 2022. His T-Rating of 1.12 is the highest of any rifler, and his run of events to close the year was as good as any player in the world, let alone riflers: 1.34 rating at ESL Pro League Season 16, 1.40 at Rio's Challengers stage, and 1.33 at the main event. A lack of BLAST events harms his sample size, but this run is what has propelled him into contention for this award.
ropz was signed as FaZe's star lurker, a signing that completed the jigsaw and saw him claim four big event trophies at the start of the year. He has not been FaZe's superstar, with them largely winning events thanks to all four of their fraggers having their moments throughout the year. Yet, more often than not, ropz was one of their two top players even if he only had 1 MVP, and there was no question that he fulfilled his role with anything but aplomb.
Coach of the year
Similar to the IGL category, it is hard to assess the impact of a coach without access to behind-the-scenes information like communication and the like. Under our experts' criteria, using all information available to them, the three coaches assessed to be the most impactful this year are:
Andrey "B1ad3" Gorodenskiy
Robert "RobbaN" Dahlström
Eetu "sAw" Saha
B1ad3 won this award when it was a fan vote last year, and he is once again in contention. Natus Vincere did not have as illustrious a year as 2021, but B1ad3's iron grip on the squad has not slipped. His notes are famous for a reason; he is perhaps the coach with the most control on his team out there.
RobbaN was the man behind FaZe's 25 weeks at number one, karrigan's right hand man and an experienced head in tough times. karrigan, rightfully, earns a lot of praise but there is no doubting the impact of RobbaN and analyst Viacheslav "innersh1ne" Britvin behind closed doors in powering the FaZe juggernaut.
The final coach is sAw, the final Finn in ENCE's active setup. He and Marco "Snappi" Pfeiffer were the brains behind ENCE's string of three top-four finishes at ESL Pro League Season 15, PGL Major Antwerp, and IEM Dallas. Snappi went as far to call sAw the "the best coach in the world", with a strong understanding of how to plan around ENCE's style to add "rounds that fit [Snappi]."
Best five of the year
The final award is an amalgamation of all the awards to create an all-star team of the year. Though Jame and cadiaN's status as AWPing IGLs throws a slight wrench in the works, the other four players should look like players that could fit together in an international side if there were not language barriers.
If one player wins two awards — which was possible with star IGLs like Denis "electroNic" Sharipov and Jame, though neither made it to two shortlists — the second place in the category they won a lower share of the vote in is elevated to the best five of the year.
Stay tuned to HLTV for the nominees for more categories and watch the show on the 14th of January to see who will be taking home the awards.