The second week of this season's Grand Prix takes us to Regina, Canada, for the 2017 Skate Canada International. And for the men, two more of the Big Six compete this week - it will be Patrick Chan and Shoma Uno facing off for bragging rights (and points for the Grand Prix Final). But looking at the rest of the field, it's going to be fairly unpredictable - but I'll give it a shot anyway.
Skate Canada International predictions
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GOLD Shoma Uno JPN - He looked almost invincible at Lombardia Trophy when he put down two programs that broke the 300 mark for him - in mid-September. Inflated scores or not, those two performances were Olympic podium worthy, but Uno came down to earth a bit at Japan Open, where his free skate was more what you would expect from a skater with his technical content this early in the season. You better believe he will be looking to redeem himself here in Regina. He's the odds-on favorite to grab his first Grand Prix title of the season.
SILVER Patrick Chan CAN - The Olympic silver medalist is taking a different approach this season - he's taking out the quad salchow for the time being in hopes of putting down clean programs, which have eluded him over the past season. And what that means is that he'll be starting at a disadvantage to Uno in base value and will need Uno to make a few mistakes for him to grab his seventh Skate Canada title. That said, even if he takes silver, two clean, fall-free skates will do a lot for his mindset going into the rest of the season.
BRONZE Jason Brown USA - Sandwiched between Chan/Uno and the rest of the field, Brown is in a bit of no man's land - and the favorite for the bronze medal here. But for him, it's less about the podium finish and more about how his jumps are faring. His chances at the Olympic team this season may or may not depend on the condition of his quad toe and quad salchow, but it absolutely will depend on the consistency of his bread and butter triple jumps. A strong showing this week can solidify his position among the American men and give him the confidence he will need to go into the next few months.
4. Jorik Hendrickx BEL - Fourth at Europeans last season, Hendrickx went into Worlds fully expecting to walk away with an Olympic spot for Belgium. Instead, he was one spot away from qualifying, and had to regroup to qualify it at Nebelhorn Trophy late last month. He has delivered strong programs so far this season, and definitely will figure in the top half, with an outside shot at the podium.
5. Keegan Messing CAN - Might Keegan Messing emerge from being the dark horse to being one of the contenders for that second Canadian spot on the Olympic team? His performance at Autumn Classic in September certainly seems to indicate so. If he can continue putting down solid, consistent performances, this may be his year. And this may be his Grand Prix even to prove it.
6. Brendan Kerry AUS - After a career-high 15th at Worlds last season, Kerry is having the best season start of his career, grabbing two bronze medals on the Challenger series in the past couple of months. He is out to prove that he can compete with the best in the world, and he's upgraded his technical content and improved his skating all-around to do that. He has never been higher than eighth at a Grand Prix, and this week may just change that for Kerry.
7. Michal Brezina CZE - Brezina's performances at Finlandia Trophy earlier this month, where he was sixth, were two of his best in recent memory. Is the former European bronze medalist trending upward just in time for the Olympic season?
8. Jun Hwan Cha KOR - It's likely frustrating to be Cha this season so far - it was supposed to be his breakout senior debut. Instead, he's had to deal with injuries that have derailed his first few months. Cha wasn't chosen to represent South Korea at Nebelhorn Trophy to qualify an Olympic spot (his teammate June Hyoung Lee was there and qualified a spot). Observers will be interested in where he is in his injury recovery, and how he fares here will say a lot about his chances at grabbing that Olympic spot this season.
9. Takahito Mura JPN - The last time Mura faced an Olympic season, he was unable to figure out his jumps to get onto the Japanese team. This season, with Yuzuru Hanyu and Shoma Uno all but wrapped up two of the three spots, he once again finds himself vying for that third spot. His seventh at US Classic was not a particularly strong start, but Skate Canada will serve as a bellwether competition for him in his chances for that elusive Olympic spot.
10. Alexander Samarin RUS - Fifth at Nepela Trophy, Samarin makes his senior Grand Prix debut in his first full season on the senior international circuit. He is a skater who has joined the quad lutz club this season and will be looking to challenge on the strength of his technical ability.
11. Nicolas Nadeau CAN - He has all the goods to make a run for an Olympic spot this season for Canada. But Nadeau has not rediscovered his consistency after an ankle injury early last season. But two clean skates here at home and it's easy to see him in the top six.
12. Paul Fentz GER - Seventh at Finlandia a few weeks back, Fentz is making his senior Grand Prix debut. He has beautiful jumps and enough difficulty to figure into the middle of the pack here.