Maia and Alex Shibutani (USA) - 'The Shibs' as I call them make the move into the Senior Grand Prix this season. They breezed through their Junior Grand Prix events last season and took the Bronze at the Junior Grand Prix Final. After winning U.S. Nationals they placed 4th at Junior Worlds. This team has all the making of winners and I think as time goes by and they continue to develop they'll only get better. I would think it hard to skate with a sibling but this team manages that quite well. They have the added advantage that their training mates are the top two teams in the world (Virtue/Moir and Davis/White). Look for this team to make a stamp this season.
Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam (Canada) - This team teamed up in February of 2009 (both had previously skated with different partners) and have come together very fast. They just had iffy results during the Junior Grand Prix last season but got it together to win the Canadian National Title earning them a place on the Junior World Team where they really surpassed expectations and took the silver. They have amazing attack and you don't get that they are holding back. Their technical content is also very good. Some polishing needs to happen around the edges but certainly contenders in the coming years to be sure.
Kharis Ralph and Asher Hill (Canada) - Another Canadian duo that will make their Senior Grand Prix debut this season. This team actally has competed at the senior level at Canadian Nationals since 2009 and actually competed at the Four Continents Cup last season but has yet to skate on the Senior Grand Prix until this fall. This team was 4th at the Junior Grand Prix Final and Canadian Nationals last season. This team didn't compete at Junior World's last season. This team really gets 'Dance.' They move inventively and seem really in tune with their music choices and rhythm. They remind me of Marie-France Dubreuil & Patrice Lauzon at times...not a bad comparison I think.
Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov (Russia) - The cream of the Junior crop making the jump to Senior is easily Ilinykh and Katsalapov. They've actually had a bit of an internal rivalry with their teammates Monko and Khaliavin who beat them at the Junior Grand Prix Final. Ilinykh and Katsalapov responded with a win at the Junior World Championships over their teammates (who finished 3rd). Like the Shibutani's it seems like they have it all and as time goes on it will only get better. Favorites in Sochi? The Russian Federation would love to have a team in contention there and they may be the ones. Also, how can you not root for a guy named Nikita?
*Americans Tibbetts and Brubaker are also debuting on the Senior Grand Prix this season.