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Fantasy figure skating advice for Skate Canada

A few shakeups possible in early season event

Watch world champion Patrick Chan and other top skaters compete at Skate Canada.
Watch world champion Patrick Chan and other top skaters compete at Skate Canada. (Getty Images)

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By Tara Wellman, special to icenetwork.com
(10/26/2011) - Week one is in the books! Congrats to the medalists from Skate America ... and to you, if you had a strong fantasy season debut! If not, no worries. The early competitions are always a struggle to predict. As they say, the ice is slippery, especially under early season jitters!

But this is a new week with a whole new set of skaters. Of course, that means all new dilemmas, too! Let's dive right in.

Healthy dancers are happy dancers

Pool A: The reigning Olympic Champions will make their Grand Prix season debut in Canada. Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir may be healthier than they've been in a long while, and that can only mean one thing -- look out, world! They've chosen a cheeky free dance to complement their spicy short, and they are ready to go.

With Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat withdrawing (he is recovering from bronchitis), the Canadians are certainly the team to beat.

Pool B: The Russians, Ekaterina Riazanova and Ilia Tkachenko, were second and fifth at their GP events last season. However, Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte are coming off of a strong finish last year. Plus, their victory at the Mont Blanc Trophy this fall was a solid debut.

It will be a battle, but Cappellini and Lanotte have the advantage.

Pool C: Another new American team will make their Grand Prix debut here. Similar to Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue, these two skaters have previous successes with other partners -- Madison Chock with Greg Zuerlein, and Evan Bates with Emily Samuelson. Chock and Bates finished third in their debut at Finlandia, scoring a 136+ overall.

Tarrah Harvey and Keith Gagnon, on the other hand, finished eighth at Nebelhorn with just under 115.

I'd go with Chock and Bates.

Pairs with promise

Pool A: At the Worlds 2011, we saw a glimpse of the future from Russians Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov. They took our breath away, finishing second to Savchenko and Szolkowy. They easily won Nebelhorn as their season warmup.

Wenjing Sui and Cong Han are coming off a successful 2010-2011 season, as are Lubov Iliushechkina and Nodari Maisuradze. Don't be surprised to see all three teams on the podium, but Volosozhar and Trankov should be at the top.

Pool B: Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers are another team with untapped talent. They finished third and fifth in their GPs last season. But they will have to fight off Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran, who took home two senior Grand Prix medals of their own last year.

Lawrence and Swiegers are building toward something special, but expect Takahashi and Tran to come out ahead.

Pool C: We get a Nationals preview in this group with Meagan Duhamel and Eric taking on former Canadian champion Jessica Dubé with her new partner, Sébastien Wolfe.

Duhamel and Radford were fifth here last year, and will be looking for a medal. Experience will give them the advantage in this matchup.

Championship Debuts

Pool A: What a group! The reigning World Champion, the former World Champion, last week's Skate America silver medalist, and last year's Skate Canada bronze medalist.

Daisuke Takahashi had a roller coaster season last year, and struggled at the early season Japan Open. Kevin Van Der Perren looked strong at Skate America, but the event was wild and certainly not clean. Adam Rippon started out strong last year, and is trying to build on that.

Still, Patrick Chan has the edge. He's skating as the World Champ, can throw a quadruple-triple combination at any time, and pulls in the best program component scores in the business. Even early, he's still the favorite.

Pool B: All three in this group are unproven.

Denis Ten skated to a fifth place finish at Skate America last week. Sweden's Alexander Majorov finished fourth at Finlandia to start this season.

But Spain's Javier Fernandez's fourth-place finish at Nebelhorn came with an overall score more than 20 points higher than Majorov's total at Finlandia, and nearly six and a half points better than Ten at Skate America.

That makes him my "B" pick this week.

Pool C: Andrei Rogozine had a strong junior season, winning gold in both Grand Prix events and bronze at the Final. His Canadian countryman Elladj Balde finished 10th at this year's Nebelhorn Trophy to start his senior season.

But it is American Ross Miner that captures the top spot in this group. He regrouped after last year's GP struggles to earn a spot on the World Team where he finished 11th. His jumps look as solid as ever and he should be ready to go.

Ladies aim to set the bar

Pool A: This will be our first good look at Rachael Flatt, Alena Leonova and Akiko Suzuki. Each had some success last season, but none consistently. Although not entirely consistent herself, Mirai Nagasu looks to be the one to beat.

She skated to gold at Nebelhorn earlier this year, but it was not without flaws. If she corrects those and continues to polish her programs, she should do very well, both here and throughout the season.

Pool B: It's the veterans -- Cynthia Phaneuf and Ashley Wagner -- against the new kid on the block, Russian darling Elizaveta Tuktamisheva. And although experience generally pays off on the Grand Prix circuit, Tuktamisheva wowed the skating world with a two triple-triple free skate at the Japan Open that scored 118+. (Carolina Kostner's winning free skate last week was just over 117.)

If she handles the pressure, she could threaten the podium here.

Pool C: Amelie Lacoste had strong Grand Prix showings last year, finishing fifth at Skate American and third at Skate Canada. Consistency was a problem later on, but in this group, that can be said of all three girls. Sarah Hecken finished sixth at Nebelhorn, but Lacoste -- skating on home ice -- is my "C" pick.

The season is still young, so don't be surprised to see a few shake ups! Choose wisely, and good luck!