Esports IndustryFeature

Canadian esports stars ready to shine bright in 2020

Canadian esports stars are creeping their way to the top.  With a new year come new opportunities, as major esports leagues across the globe are back in action.  Here’s a look at the talent from the Great White North that just might wow us on stage and in lobbies across the world this year.

Damon “Karma” Barlow – Call of Duty

Canadian esports player Damon Karma Barlow for Seattle Surge Call of Duty
Source: Seattle Surge

Damon “Karma” Barlow is getting ready to make big waves in the Call of Duty League with the Seattle Surge. The ex-OpTic Gaming member joins Seattle as team captain and flex player. With over 59 first place finishes in Call of Duty, he’ll be looking for a breakthrough in the CoD League’s inaugural season.

Barlow has been a part of the pro scene since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Barlow hit his stride with the release of Black Ops 2, winning the first CoD Championship in 2013 as a member of Fariko Impact. He found success with coL and Evil Geniuses before signing with OpTic Gaming with the release of 2016’s Advanced Warfare. He played with OpTic until the 2019 World Championship, before being signed to Seattle for the CoD League.

He’s also the only Canadian to win a Call of Duty championship, and is one of the highest earning Canadian esports stars with over $800,000 in winnings. Barlow looks to add to his trophy case with the Surge (run by Canada’s Luminosity Gaming) in the team’s first match on January 24.

Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken and Keith “NAF” Marković – Counter Strike: Global Offensive

Canadian esports stars Keith “NAF” Marković and Russel "Twistzz" Van Dulken for Team Liquid CS:GO
Left: Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken. Right: Keith “NAF” Marković Source: Team Liquid YouTube

This pair of Canadians have made Team Liquid’s CSGO roster a force to be reckoned with. Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken and Keith “NAF” Marković had a solid gold summer with Liquid in 2019, bringing home five titles. The end of the year saw several second and third place placings at big tournaments. As a result, Team Liquid was one of the top performing teams in CSGO worldwide.

Marković is a veteran of the North American CSGO scene. He found success as a member of OpTic Gaming for two years, winning ELEAGUE Season 2 and Norther Arena Montreal in 2016. After a brief stint with Renegades, he was picked up by Team Liquid in 2018.  Van Dulken spent most of his pro career with Team SoloMid and Misfits. He found moderate results with both orgs before being signed to Liquid in 2017.

Team Liquid became notorious in the CSGO community for choking in the spotlight. However, Marković, Van Dulken and TL found their stride in 2019 and began bringing trophies home to North America. The pair will hope to start 2020 off on a good note at the BLAST Premier Spring Series on January 31st. Team Liquid will to need hit the ground running to deal with Astralis, Evil Geniuses and Team Vitality.

Brady “Agilities” Girardi, Lane “Surefour” Roberts and Liam “Mangachu” Campbell – Overwatch

Canadian esports stars Agilities, Surefour and Mangachu from Toronto Defiant Overwatch
From left to right: Lane “Surefour” Roberts, Brady “Agilities” Girardi and Liam “Mangachu” Campbell. Source: Toronto Defiant Twitter

The northern stars aligned this Overwatch League offseason, as three Canadian esports pros found their way to the Toronto Defiant. Brady “Agilities” Girardi, Lane “Surefour” Roberts and Liam “Mangachu” Campbell are three of Canada’s top Overwatch players.

Girardi and Roberts have spent the past two years as part of the L.A. Valiant and L.A. Gladiators respectively. Girardi and the Valiant found success in the inaugural season of OWL, capturing the stage four title and holding a spot as the number two team in 2018. Meanwhile, Roberts and the Gladiators stayed close to the Valiant at every turn, finishing fourth overall. 2019 was a rough year as the Valiant and Girardi fall to 13th place overall while Gladiators and Roberts fell only to fifth overall.

Nicknamed the “silly hero specialist,” Campbell has spent the past two years of his career in Overwatch with the New York Excelsior and Florida Mayhem academy teams. The former Team Fortress 2 pro was eventually picked up on a two-way contract by Toronto. He will spend time this season between the Defiant and their farm team, the Montreal Rebellion.

Girardi, Roberts and Campbell have played together on the Team Canada World Cup squad since 2017. However, the trio finished with a disappointing 0-4 showing at the last year’s tournament. There’s high hopes from fans the three will bounce back for the third OWL season. Watch out for highlight reel plays this February from Girardi’s Genji, massive headshots from Roberts’ Widowmaker, and wild hammer kills from Campbell’s Torbjorn.

Owen “Pojoman” Mitura – Rainbow Six Siege

Canadian esports player Owen Pojoman Mitura for Team SoloMid TSM Rainbow Six Siege
Source: Team SoloMid YouTube

Owen “Pojoman” Mitura is one of Canada’s premier veteran players in the R6 Pro League. Mitura has spent the past four years with middle of the pack squads, but is looking to break through with Team SoloMid this season. Originally brought on as coach, Mitura made his way to the starting five of TSM. You can usually see Mitura supporting his team with the likes of Hibana, Thermite, Smoke and Echo.

Coming off a fantastic win at Dreamhack Montreal and a sixth place finish in Season 10 of Pro League, Mitura and TSM look to start 2020 off right with Pro League Season 11 in their sights this month. You can catch Mitura and Team SoloMid in action against the world’s best Rainbow 6 Siege teams in February at the Six Invitational 2020 in Montreal.

Eric “Licorice” Ritchie and Philippe “Vulcan” Laflamme – League of Legends

Top Laner Eric “Licorice” Ritchie was pleased to say the least when sophomore Support Philippe “Vulcan” Laflamme joined Cloud 9 this off-season. LaFlamme and Clutch Gaming captured fourth in the LoL Championship playoffs this summer, and reached the top 16 at Worlds 2019. He will look to give Cloud 9 the support they need to break out in 2020. LaFlamme is also the first French Canadian player in LCS.

Ritchie joined Cloud 9 in early 2018 after a year with eUnited. He and Cloud 9 found success in North America as one of the top teams in the region. The team’s biggest result came at Worlds 2018 with a 4th place finish, making them the only North American team to ever make a Worlds’ semifinals.

Ritchie and C9 are coming off a top 12 Worlds performance and a second place finish in the Summer Split in 2019. Cloud 9 will look to reclaim their spot on top when they play their first match with Laflamme on January 25th against Team Liquid.

Canadian esports Stars from Sea to Sea

More and more Canadian esports stars will grace streams and stages across the country and worldwide as esports grows. Stay tuned for more content from SQUAD as we showcase Canada’s next big players in your favourite games.

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Matthew Murray

Matthew Murray is a Canadian writer, journalist and public relations specialist. PC gamer, fan of FPS and RPGs. Follower of several esports titles including Rainbow 6, Overwatch and CS:GO. Every software or game he touches will magically have inexplicable issues somehow.
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