Ice Network

Who will be the ladies breakout stars in 2016-17?

Higuchi dominates international vote; U.S. predictions all over the map
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Our experts have high hopes for two-time world junior bronze medalist Wakaba Higuchi. -Getty Images

Icenetwork asked its contributors which ladies competitors they thought would take the next step forward in the 2016-17 season.

Lynn Rutherford

U.S.

She doesn't have a Grand Prix assignment, but Mariah Bell had solid skates this summer at the Glacier Falls Summer Classic, and her Rohene Ward-choreographed programs -- a Chicago short and East of Eden free -- look exceptional. When she's on, she's got star quality, and if her confidence matches her talent, she can crack the top five in the U.S. this season.

International

A few of the top junior ladies from last season are staying in the junior ranks, so this one is tough. I like Wakaba Higuchi's big jumps and spunky style, and winning two straight Japanese junior titles -- then defeating the great Mao Asada to win silver at the Japanese championships -- shows she is a tough competitor.

Vladislav Luchianov

United States

After a trying season that saw her withdraw from the Four Continents and world championships, Polina Edmunds -- already the owner of two U.S. silver medals -- is ready to shine. 

International

My gut tells me that Japan's Rika Hongo will really blossom in the coming year, and that she will enter the upper echelon of the world's best ladies.

Jean-Christophe Berlot

United States

Ranked fifth in the U.S. in 2016, Tyler Pierce could finish even higher this year. I wouldn't be surprised if she ended up on the U.S. podium in Kansas City. 

International

Who will be Russia's next wunderkind? 2015 Junior Grand Prix Final champion Polina Tsurskaya does not have a Grand Prix assignment, but the strength and reliability of her elements, as well as the maturity of her style, might make her a strong candidate for an international selection. She ended fourth at the Russian championships but could certainly improve that finish this year.

Nick McCarvel

United States

Karen Chen was third at the U.S. championships two years ago, and I love how fearlessly tiny she is. She's a scrapper, but she also has an easy grace to her. She has two Grand Prix assignments this season, and she will have to challenge herself to make the podium at either one of them. After medaling at only one of her six events last season, this is a make-or-break year for her.

International

Another Japanese superstar? Higuchi could be just that. The two-time world junior bronze medalist makes her Grand Prix debut with assignments in France and -- no pressure -- Japan. One of eight (eight!) Japanese women skating in the Grand Prix this season, she owns the confidence that comes from having beaten Asada at her country's national championships last year.

Wei Xiong

U.S.

Courtney Hicks has achieved impressive results at Challenger Series and Grand Prix events the last two seasons, including winning a silver medal at the 2015 NHK Trophy. However, she has not yet had her time at the U.S. championships. If she can further improve her consistency and control her nerves in Kansas City, a medal is certainly achievable.

International

Higuchi is already a two-time Japan medalist, a remarkable achievement for a 15-year-old. This season, she is finally "old" enough to compete at senior events internationally, and I expect her to show the world the powerful skating, dynamic jumps and increasingly sophisticated artistry that she demonstrated at summer ice shows. On her best day, Higuchi -- who has beaten Hongo and Asada before -- is certainly capable of challenging the top skaters in the world.

Sarah Brannen

U.S.

14-year-old Tessa Hong will be competing as a senior in the U.S. after missing two seasons with injury-related issues. With exquisite artistry and triple-triple combinations, she is definitely one to watch for in the future -- and the future could get here soon.

International

Japan's 14-year-old Rika Kihira is turning heads with her stunning triple axel-triple toe combinations. 

FINAL TALLY

U.S.

Bell - 1
Chen - 1
Edmunds - 1
Hicks - 1
Hong - 1
Pierce - 1

International

Higuchi - 3
Hongo - 1
Kihira - 1
Tsurskaya - 1