Canadians take aim at favourites at junior figure skating worlds

Figure skating's top young athletes get their turn in the spotlight at this week's world junior championships in Taipei City. is live streaming every short and free program, beginning with the men's short Tuesday at 10:30 p.m. ET.

Here's what to look for in each competition:

Men: Too soon for Nadeau?

If only the competition could be in a couple of months for Canada's Nicolas Nadeau. He's still playing catch-up after missing the first half of the season with a severe ankle injury. Nadeau is talented, won the world junior silver medal in 2016, and has a style that anyone would find delightful. But he has competed only three times this season, which makes coming into a tough and prepared field particularly challenging.

On paper, the defending world junior champion, Daniel Samohin from Israel, should warrant some attention. But his lacklustre season's-best score and overall performance take him out of the mix in my mind.

Instead, Nadeau's toughest competition will come from two national silver medallists — Russia's Alexander Samarin and American Vincent Zhou. I'm leaning towards Samarin based on his consistency, but with this much talent in the mix the results could go in a number of different ways. 

Ladies: Zagitova stands out

The ladies' event is a little more clear cut. More than half of the 41 women's world junior titles have gone to either the United States (14) or Russia (12).

I was impressed with what I saw at the Junior Grand Prix Final in December in Marseille, France, where Russia's Alina Zagitova took the title to add to her gold and bronze medals from junior Grand Prix events held earlier in the season. Zagitova followed up with a silver at the senior Russian nationals, as well as the gold at the recent European Youth Olympics.

She isn't the only talented skater in the field, but I see her as a standout.

Pairs: Canadians on the rise

As is often the case with pairs, it seems to take a while for consistency to develop while skaters are still maturing. The team to beat in Taipei City should be Russians Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii, who are national junior champions and this season's Junior Grand Prix Final bronze medallists.

I like the chances of Canada's junior champions, Evelyn Walsh and Trennt Michaud. They've only been skating together since September of 2016, but they're solid jumpers and have a triple twist in their repertoire. Remarkably, this is Evelyn's first stab at pairs skating, and I can only imagine what this team will be like once they reach their potential.

Dance: American showdown

Of the 41 ice dance titles awarded in the history of the junior worlds, 29 have gone to Russian teams. But this year's event is shaping up as a battle between American duos who reached the podium last year, and I think Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter are in for some trouble in defending their title.

Fellow Americans Rachel and Michael Parsons, who won the silver in 2016, have shown that they're up to the challenge. Over the course of the season, the brother-sister duo has beaten McNamara and Carpenter in head-to-head competition at the Junior Grand Prix Final and the U.S. junior nationals, taking gold both times.

The third piece of the puzzle is the Russian team of Alla Loboda and Pavel Drozd, who won the 2016 world junior bronze medal and took silver at this season's Junior Grand Prix Final.

Pj's gold-medal picks

Men: Alexander Samarin (Russia)

Ladies: Alina Zagitova (Russia)

Pairs: Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii (Russia)

Dance: Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons (United States)