There are a whole lot of skating fans going out of their minds about this week's matchup in the men's event at Skate Canada. We are talking about a first look at the battle between the most recent Olympic gold and silver medalists. Is there a whole lot on the line? Not quite. But there is likely a lot of pride on the line. Both are trying to shake off disappointments at Worlds last season - one (Patrick Chan) more so than the other (Yuzuru Hanyu). Grab some popcorn, because this is going to be an intriguing competition.
Skate Canada preview
Official hashtag: #SCI16
GOLD Yuzuru Hanyu JPN - Hanyu made a lot of history last season, grabbing all the world record scores he possibly could with some amazing skates at the Grand Prix Final. He couldn't repeat those performances at Worlds, though, and settled for the silver being training mate Javier Fernandez. True to form, he's already made more history this season by becoming the first person to land clean quad loop in competition. You better believe that quad loop will be back this week in Canada. But that also means his programs are technically even riskier than they were last year. I don't see him skating clean this week but it will be enough to win his first Skate Canada title.
SILVER Patrick Chan CAN - We all remember last season when Chan came into Skate Canada and skated one of his best free skates ever. But he struggled with his short, only skating it cleanly once out of six tries. And so his short program is perhaps most important at this point, because he can't afford to continue to play catch-up, especially with a technical disadvantage to Hanyu with only one quad in the short. In the free, the big news is that he may attempt a second type of quad - the salchow - for the first time ever. Even with two clean programs, he will need mistakes from Hanyu to grab the title, but it's not out of the realm of possibility.
BRONZE Takahito Mura JPN - Silver at US Classic, Mura opened his season well, staying consistent and not making the fluke errors that he has been known to do in the past few seasons. After all, this is the guy who was simultaneously tenth and third in the same Grand Prix series last season. But what we saw at US Classic was promising - he could be third or tenth, but I'll go with third this time around.
4. Misha Ge UZB - After a career-high sixth at Worlds two seasons ago, Ge was making strides to become a bonafide contender. But injuries and a death in the family made his follow-up season a bit of a nightmare. He finished his season on a solid note, 15th at Worlds when it was looking like he may not even have had the consistency to qualify for the free skate. And his trajectory is looking strong after a silver at Autumn Classic, where he landed his first quad in competition. A clean quad here can do wonders, and perhaps put him on the podium - he just can't afford to get jumps invalidated like he did at Autumn Classic in the free skate.
5. Kevin Reynolds CAN - It's good to see him back and stronger than last season. Reynolds' injuries and boot problems kept him basically out of a season and a half. And he came back decently to win the bronze at Canadians. He started off solidly with a silver at Ondrej Nepela, and will have an outside shot for the podium this week.
6. Grant Hochstein USA - A top 10 finish at Worlds was a career highlight for Hochstein. And though he didn't have a particularly strong start to his season so far, the bronze he earned at Nebelhorn was a good step forward. He really turned it on last season on the Grand Prix with two fourth-place finishes, so it's not tough to see him back in the hunt. His consistency will need to turn up a notch for that to happen.
7. Han Yan CHN - The last time we saw Yan, he failed to get out of the short program at Worlds. It was a supreme low point for a skater who has had so much promise for the past few seasons. Where does he fit in this week? A clean Yan makes the podium; the Yan we saw at Worlds struggles to get into the top 10. So I guess I'm going to take the middle of the pack.
8. Michal Brezina CZE - Brezina was competing nonstop last season, and he took way too many falls in competition to count. With a coaching change (to Rafael Arutyunyan) perhaps came a different approach to the season - and Skate Canada will be his first competition of this season. It will be interesting where he lands this week. He's been fourth at Worlds twice, so it's very much possible for him to contend. Lots of unknowns here though.
9. Alexander Petrov RUS - It's unusual to see Petrov make mistakes. We saw him last season skate very consistently, though quadless, And he started his season winning Nebelhorn Trophy. He does have a quad toe in his repertoire, but it remains to be season whether or not he attempts it. He doubled his quad attempt at Nebelhorn, but left it out of the program at Finlandia a couple weeks later, where he made errors in his triples and finished sixth.
10. Liam Firus CAN - The surprise silver medalist at Canadians last season, Firus was looking to be moving closer to the potential that many of us have seen in him. His issues have always been with consistency, and based on what we saw at Nebelhorn to start the season, it's looking like he's gotten some of the consistency he needs on the non-axel triples. The components are there, and if the jumps follow, it's easy to see Firus up in the top half of the group.
11. Ross Miner USA - Sixth at U.S. Classic to start, Miner has both a whole lot of potential and a whole lot of inconsistency. The last time we saw him on the Grand Prix, though, he surprised us with a bronze medal finish. When Miner skates well, he's breathtaking.
12. Daniel Samohin ISR - Oh boy. After winning Junior Worlds last season, Samohin looked to be the news of this season. But so far, it's been a ball of subpar performances - 13th at Finlandia and 6th at Autumn Classic. If he repeats those performances, it'll be tough for him to even get into the top 10.