World champion Patrick Chan headlines the men's field at this week's 2013 Skate Canada International, the second Grand Prix event of the season. And it's a ridiculously talented field, one that includes him, the three-time World champion, a three-time U.S. champion, the current World junior champion, two Japanese champions, and the currently European bronze medalist.
GOLD Yuzuru Hanyu JPN - It was a very nice debut for the Japanese champ and 2012 World bronze medalist at Finlandia Trophy a few weeks ago. With the exception of an errant popped axel in the short, he skated solidly. Especially impressive was his 180+ free skate, which included a clean quad salchow and a clean quad toe. He has come out swinging and Skate Canada will be his chance to make a mark on the early season. After all, with teammate Tatsuki Machida winning Skate America last weekend, Hanyu will be feeling the pressure to step up.
SILVER Patrick Chan CAN - We did not see Chan at Japan Open as we have been accustomed to for the past few years. But we did see him at a summer competition in August in his only warmup to the season. It's interesting to see him go back to The Four Seasons for his free skate, though it is a different selection than the one he had used in 2007 and 2008 for the free skate that really put him on the map in the figure skating world. His liability will be the triple axel, and he no longer has the technical base value advantage that he enjoyed a few years back, now that skaters like Hanyu are also doing two quads and even two triple axels. But it's Chan, after all, and at his best, he is one of the best. Keeping errors low will be key.
BRONZE Jeremy Abbott USA - Chan is not the only skater going back to a familiar piece. Abbott, the three-time U.S. champ, brings a new and improved version of his masterpiece free skate to the Olympic season. And he skated solidly at Japan Open earlier this month. For Abbott, it's certainly been about getting that quad toe down - and though his planned base value is the lowest of all the top guys, his PCS can make up, at least a bit, for it. I don't see him needing to hit the quad toe to get on the podium - though rotating it completely will be necessary. But he will have to make sure that he hits all of his triples, which has been a source of great pain for him in the past few seasons.
4. Nobunari Oda JPN - After missing the World team last season, the 2009 Japanese champ came out super strong at Nebelhorn and put down two clean programs that included a clean quad in each to win by a landslide. Inconsistency has been a bit of an issue for him in the past couple of seasons, and he's been prone to momentary lapses in his programs that just take him completely out of the running. But another two clean programs will most certainly put him in contention this week. It's just a matter of if.
5. Takahito Mura JPN - Eighth at Worlds, Mura was the surprise winner last year at Trophee Eric Bompard and one of the breakthroughs of last season. He's a big jumper, and though he's got strong basics, his musicality is less developed than the other top contenders, which will likely be his biggest obstacle this week to the podium.
6. Joshua Farris USA - The World junior champion makes his Grand Prix debut this week after a disappointing third at U.S. Classic last month. Against this packed group, he will need to conjure up his best to have any shot at the top five. But if he does put down two great programs, don't be surprised if he becomes the dark horse in this field.
7. Michal Brezina CZE - It's really never clear what you are going to get from Brezina, who was a solid third at Europeans and a puzzling sixth at Skate America all during last season. Japan Open was his debut for the season, and it was a mixed bag.
8. Ross Miner USA - A fourth place at Ondrej Nepela was probably not quite where he wanted to be. But Miner, who has been on the podium at Nationals for the past three years, will need to do some strong skating this week to get himself back in favor with the international panel. The quad sal will need to accompany him to Canada this week.
9. Andrei Rogozine CAN - World junior champion three seasons ago, Rogozine has yet to really make a dent on the senior ranks. A seventh-place at U.S. Classic to start his season didn't help matters.
10. Elladj Balde CAN - Fourth at Canadians last season, Balde skated strongly last year at this event to finish seventh. With a field like this, it will be tough for him to be any higher than that this week.