1) Duhamel & Radford (CAN)
2) Sui & Han (CHN)
3) Denney & Coughlin (USA)
Choosing against a Chinese pairs team may be counter-intuitive, but I'm going with the heartwarming story and Duhamel & Radford (CAN) have great momentum going into this event. Since the event is in North America, Colorado Springs specifically, this is practically a home game for them as they won't have to adjust to much of a time difference and there will certainly be a decent Canadian crowd. They are coming off the high of winning Canadian Nationals decisively and they have ambitions technical elements that rival the top teams in the world. They won't get the PCS of the top European teams, but their unison and chemistry is undeniable and they won't face the best in the World until the compete in Nice in March. This will be a good test for them to see how ready they are to contend on the big stage.
Pre-season, it seemed an afterthought that Sui & Han (CHN) would be contenders for the World podium this season after a stellar debut last year, but they've fallen off a bit with inconsistencies and technical mistakes. They are moving in a more mature direction with a Tango Free Skate, but they still look like a junior team to me. If they hit here, they could win, but they have yet to do so this season and I won't believe it until I see it.
I'm finally drinking the Kool-Aid and buying into Denny & Coughlin (USA) after a convincing win at US Nationals last week. I'm not saying they have World medal potential, but you can't deny that they are consistent and have had a good overall freshman season. Their artistry needs work, but they have solid pair technique and their unison is pretty spot-on for a new team. Time will tell if they can break the curse of the other American pairs and actually go the distance. Their "elegance" is non-existent, but but that is a learned trait and they do have one of the most important intangibles, the competitive edge. Their packaging also needs an overhaul, from costuming to hair and makeup.
A personal favorite of mine is Takahashi & Tran (JPN) and I'd actually love to see them win, but they are so inconsistent. If one of them isn't falling on the side-by-side jumps, its the other. They are elegant and have an on-ice maturity beyond their years, but inconsistency is a major problem and somebody needs to teach them how to compete.
Another team to watch out for is Marley & Brubaker (USA) who made a big splash at US Nationals, winning the short program and nearly taking the title save for a few uncharacteristic mistakes. Though they won't be thought of as medal contenders this season, this is a polished, athletic team on the rise and they have plenty of gas left in the tank with many years left to climb the ranks
On the opposite end of the pairs spectrum you have Evora & Ladwig (USA) who are entering the twilight of their careers without much international success. We can't keep making excuses for them by saying "they are great, but..." and they just need to man up and land those jumps if they are ever going to crack the top 6 at Worlds. We saw a US pair do it last season but that was after they put together 2 perfect programs. Will Evora & Ladwig ever win a major international medal before they retire? They have as much of a shot as any to do that here if they hit.