The six-stop Grand Prix Series ends, as usual, in Japan with NHK Trophy. It's the final competition before the qualifiers for the Grand Prix Final are all set, so that means there's quite a bit of excitement as to who will actually make it to the Final, again held in Barcelona this year.
Related: 2015 NHK Trophy entrants
1. Multiple spots for the ladies likely still up
Three pre-season favorites are here - Mao Asada, Satoko Miyahara, and Ashley Wagner have all been assigned for the last qualifying GP. And don't forget about the comeback-er Kaetlyn Osmond, the unpredictable Zijun Li, and the dark horse Anna Pogorilaya. All of these ladies (and maybe even more?) could have the opportunity to wrap up at berth to the Grand Prix Final on the last weekend of qualifying Grand Prix competition.
2. Battle between the Olympic champs and World champs
For the first time since Sochi, Olympic champions Tatiana Volosozhar/Maxim Trankov will go head-to-head against new World champions Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford. If this were two years ago, Volosozhar/Trankov would be the heavy favorites. But a year, a quad sal, and a World title later, the atmosphere is very different. It promises to be quite an exciting battle.
3. Japan, Russia, US face off in the men's event
A second Olympic champion, home favorite Yuzuru Hanyu, will be on hand to qualify for the Grand Prix Final as well. But doing so requires him to battle his teammates, one of whom will be Takahito Mura, two of the top Russians, Maxim Kovtun and Konstantin Menshov, and three talented young Americans, Jason Brown, Richard Dornbush, and Joshua Farris. The last time we saw Farris at NHK, he was completely out of sorts. But he transformed his season and is certainly a much different skater coming in to this one.
4. Have the Shibutanis made strides?
By this time in the season, we will know a bit better if the surge that Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani made at the end of last season was a true improvement in international panel scores. Ever since their bronze at Worlds in 2011, they haven't scored as well in the short dance and free dance as they did at Four Continents and Worlds last season. We'll see if this upgrade in status is here to stay.
5. Who will be the TBDs??
One of the big news items for me will be who the Japanese federation chooses as their third entries in the men's and ladies' events. Last year, the third picks were Daisuke Murakami and Riona Kato, both of whom dazzled. Murakami was especially impressive, winning his first Grand Prix in brilliant fashion. Kato proved to be a skater to watch with her fifth-place finish. No doubt there's a big talented group of skaters to pluck from.