The men's competition at next week's 2013 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships is an interesting one. It's completely logical that we could see the exact same podium as last year, when Jeremy Abbott, Adam Rippon, and Ross Miner took gold, silver, and bronze. It's also completely logical that we could see a complete shift in the names you'll see at the top. In some ways, we know what to expect, but in others, it's a wide open field.
Reigning U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott returns to the competition where he has skated the two best free skates of his career - one in 2010 when he won his second U.S. title heading into the Olympics and one last year when he won his third.
With both Evan Lysacek and Johnny Weir unable to make it to Nationals in what was to be their big comeback competition, Abbott once again finds himself as the guy with the most experience and could become the first man to win more than three national titles since Todd Eldredge.
But there's much more to winning this thing than experience. Abbott's performances thus far this season have actually been overshadowed by at least one other skater's.
Ross Miner's free skate at NHK Trophy, which won him the bronze in front of Javier Fernandez, was arguably the program of the season from any of the American guys. Max Aaron has had a strong season as well, winning the U.S. Classic and Midwestern Sectionals with super difficult technical content.
Then you've got Richard Dornbush, who looks rejuvenated and started his season superbly with a silver at Nebelhorn (also ahead of Fernandez). Keegan Messing won Coupe de Nice with some strong jumping as well.
All of this and we still haven't talked about Adam Rippon, the defending silver medalist. His season hasn't been particularly great, as he has been reworking his axel technique with new coach Rafael Arutyunyan.
And then there are the two guys who lit up the junior circuit though they are clearly senior skaters. Joshua Farris and Jason Brown, both on the podium at last year's Junior Worlds, have had solid seasons. Farris looked great early on and Brown looks to be finding that elusive triple axel.
Two spots for Worlds and three for Four Continents are up for grabs; a bunch of names are in the mix.
NEXT: Men's predictions
The men begin their battle this Friday night at 8:30 p.m. Eastern with the short program. Examiner Figure Skating will be bringing comprehensive live coverage of the men's event.