Another Grand Prix, another return of a three-time World champion. Patrick Chan will be making his comeback to the GP at Skate Canada, and a week later, Mao Asada will make her return at Cup of China, a competition she has won four times and never finished below silver. And as we'll be accustomed to by this competition, there will be more exciting debuts in Beijing as well.
Related: 2015 Cup of China entrants
1. Asada brings her magic back
The last time we saw her, she made her third World Championship win look fairly easy. And she had also just come off one of the finest Olympic free skates we had ever seen to come back from 16th to finish in the top 6. But the ladies' field, even just after the one season that she took off, looks quite a bit different. There's another woman with a triple axel (Elizaveta Tuktamysheva) for the first time (and more than a couple of other women working toward one), the number of difficult triple-triples we see continue to rise, and top names like Kim and Kostner being replaced by names like Radionova and Miyahara.
Where does Mao Asada fit in now? A lot will depend on whether her technical arsenal now is anywhere near where it was at the Olympics, which was really the best we had ever seen from her.
2. More hot debuts
Israel's Daniel Samohin made quite a splash at Europeans last year, debuting with some big quads to finish tenth in his first huge senior competition. China's Boyang Jin, after being on the junior circuit for three years, finally graduates to senior at 17, and he's quite the jumper too. And Karen Chen, the surprise U.S. bronze medalist, is in her first international senior competition after a ho-hum Junior Worlds where she finished eighth.
3. Chinese pairs like whoa
Cup of China is always known for its high-flying pairs competition, mainly because Chinese pairs all bring their huge skills to the ice. With Qing Pang/Jian Tong retired (again), we will likely see at least one moderately-known Chinese pair break through this season. Wenjing Sui/Cong Han, finally getting the respect their deserve with a silver at Worlds, will play the role of the veterans for once. But it will also be exciting to see Xuehan Wang/Lei Wang and Xiaoyu Yu/Yang Jin, both proving themselves to be early artists in addition to being fantastic pairs skaters, something you don't see often with the Chinese skating program.
4. Lots of Worlds hardware
A third of the World medalists from last season scheduled to compete at Cup of China. In addition to Sui/Han, World champ Javier Fernandez, World silver medalists Madison Chock/Evan Bates, and World bronze medalist Elena Radionova are on the list. And while we are at it, let's add former World silver medalist Takahiko Kozuka, former World champions Anna Cappellini/Luca Lanotte, and former World bronze medalists Yuko Kavaguti/Alexander Smirnov, and that's quite the field.
5. A few up-and-comers to watch for
The very multilingual Misha Ge starts his GP in his adopted country - listen to him thank everyone in the kiss & cry in at least three languages. He had quite the breakthrough last season when his triple axel finally clicked for him. South Korea's So Youn Park is working toward her home Olympics in two seasons and would love to make some waves halfway through the Olympic cycle. And Kaitlin Hawayek/Jean-Luc Baker, the 2014 World Junior champions, try to move up in a deep American ice dance field.