Year 4 Rookie of the Year: Dan

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Coming from obscurity, as a rookie Dan became the driving force behind Team Empire's run as this year's best.

Dan's year began in earnest when he was acquired out of the blue by Team Empire towards the end of the online portion of Season 9. He had previously played on a few low-level Russian teams, most notably forZe, but that name was not nearly as powerful as it is today. forZe was still a tier-three European team, unable to reach CL. Still, Empire saw potential in Dan, and made the move weeks before they were set to appear in the Season 9 LAN Finals.

This event was a particularly great opportunity for Empire, who had recently fallen short to G2 in the grand final of the 2019 Six Invitational. G2's online form had been lagging and they had not earned enough points to qualify for the event, and so Empire was entering as the presumptive favorite. Still, a roster change with so little time to reintegrate was something to be widely questioned.

Empire's new roster debut in Milan

Despite the questions, Dan delivered on LAN. In their quarter-final match against Darkzero Esports, he stood out for Empire, topping his team in terms of rating and kills. However, his most memorable play of the tournament came on its very final round, where the new addition clutched a 1v2 against Evil Geniuses to secure the title for the Russian side. Because of this play and many others, Dan was awarded the MVP of his first-ever LAN event.

Dan continued to be a solid performer for Team Empire after winning Pro League Finals, but would once again have a chance to prove himself at the Raleigh Major. Dan was a critical piece of the machinery here, being the team's top rated player in three out of Empire's five matches at the major. Most critically was his performance in the team's scare in the quarter-final against Faze Clan, where Faze famously took Club House (then one of Empire's strongest maps) 7-1. Dan was the only member of Empire to have a positive rating or kill differential in that match, and without his performance it may have been an early exit for Team Empire. 

Dan seemed to be a lock for a second consecutive MVP award, but after a pedestrian performance in the grand final ShepparD was able to narrowly pass him. Instead, Dan settled for an EVP award, which would still build on his already-impressive resume. 

Throughout the remainder of the year Empire took a bit of a step back, and while Dan continued to play well, his best performances always remained on LAN. He would only get another opportunity once: at the Six Invitational. Despite Empire's underperformance, Dan still managed to be the joint-top rated player on his team, one of only two with score above 1.00. 

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