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Who will be the pairs breakout stars in 2017-18?

Icenetwork predicts which teams will come into their own this season
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Despite only being together for a little over a year, Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc have established themselves as serious contenders to make the U.S. Olympic team. -Getty Images

Icenetwork asked its contributors which pairs teams they thought would take the next step forward in the 2017-18 season.

Lynn Rutherford

U.S.

For their second season together -- and just her second season skating pairs -- Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Nathan Bartholomay plan to up their game this season -- big time. With side-by-side triple lutzes, a throw quad salchow and a higher-level triple twist added to their repertoire, this duo is my pick to make waves at the U.S. championships and surprise at their international assignments.

International

Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro impressed judges at the Quebec Summer Championships with strong jumps, solid throws and a more fluid performance style. After three seasons together, I'm betting they'll hit their stride.

Vladislav Luchianov

U.S.

Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc, both former singles skaters, surprised many with their strong performances last season. Given their talent and tenacity, I think they are very capable of winning the gold at the U.S. championships this season.

International

From the very beginning, Lubov Iliushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch of Canada showed a natural chemistry on the ice, allowing them to improve both technically and artistically. A world medal this season would be a logical continuation of their growth.

Philip Hersh

U.S.

The United States has been waiting for a breakout pair for most of the past two decades. Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim have the talent to be that team, but inconsistency and health issues have stopped them. Will this be the year they put it all together?

International

The most fascinating team in the world is from the Land Down Under: Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya, a Russian, and Harley Windsor, who has Aboriginal roots. In their first season together, they became the first Aussies to win an ISU championship (the world junior title) and finished 16th at worlds. To make the Olympics, she needs to get Australian citizenship, and Australia needs to earn a pairs spot. If they make it to PyeongChang, Windsor would be the first indigenous Australian to compete in the Winter Games.

Jean-Christophe Berlot

U.S.

Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc delivered great promise in their first season together. They stand out as an excellent pairs team, and an original one, too; they are one of the most well-matched duos in terms of size on the ice, a feature that allows them to explore new styles. They may very well represent their country on the Olympic stage this season.

International

France's Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès have always been appreciated for their unique style, but they often lacked the confidence and technical reliability to reach the objectives they had set for themselves. Last season, they emerged as a true breakout team at the continental level, winning the European bronze medal. I could see them emerging on the global stage this season, if they continue to solidify the foundation they started building last year.

Sarah S. Brannen

U.S.

I'm looking forward to watching Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc this season, whether they make it to PyeongChang or not. They're both good jumpers, but I love their elegant long lines and striking presentation. It will be very interesting to see how they do in their second full season together, with a bit more experience as a team under their belt.

International

Natalia Zabijako and Alexander Enbert, who finished 12th at worlds last season, caught my eye early last year. They are a pretty new pair, having teamed up just two years ago, but the reigning Russian bronze medalists (and Grand Prix Final qualiers) could find themselves representing their country at the Olympics.

Wei Xiong

U.S.

Technically speaking, Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier have already broken out, but their career hit a snag when they had to sit out all of the 2015-16 season because of Denney's knee injury. The former world junior champions started to get back on track last season, and if they improve their consistency, they can can challenge for the podium at both of their Grand Prix assignments.

International

Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès are the real deal. They clearly have the difficulty, and they also have the chemistry -- when they choose a program that suits their style. I wouldn't be surprised if they made it to the Grand Prix Final this season and won a silver medal at Europeans.

Nick McCarvel

U.S.

Tarah Kayne and Daniel O'Shea will get their groove back. It's not easy bouncing back from a concussion, as she's attempting to do, but the former U.S. champions will prove themselves again and -- perhaps -- win that lone U.S. spot for the Olympics.

International

Having won the Italian championship each of the last two years, Nicole della Monica and Matteo Guarise seem due for international success. They've been pushed domestically by Valentina Marchei and Ondřej Hotárek, and that should benefit them when they go out to compete on bigger stages this season.

FINAL TALLY

U.S.

Cain/LeDuc - 3
Denney/Frazier - 1
Kayne/O'Shea - 1
Scimeca Knierim/Knierim - 1
Stellato-Dudek/Bartholomay - 1

International

James/Ciprès - 2
Alexandrovskaya/Windsor - 1
Della Monica/Guarise - 1
Iliushechkina/Moscovitch - 1
Moore-Towers/Marinaro - 1
Zabijako/Enbert - 1