It may have just begun, but 2012 is shaping up to be quite a year for Thomas Scoffin.
The 17-year-old curler from Whitehorse led a mixed team that won a bronze medal at the inaugural Youth Winter Olympics in Austria last month.
Now, he's back to lead his regular team at the M&M Meat Shops Canadian Junior Men's and Women's Curling Championships, which gets under way Friday in Napanee, Ont.
While they had been dreaming of gold, Scoffin and his teammates were happy to come home with bronze after a disappointing loss to Italy in the semifinals.
The Youth Olympics are a great memory but Scoffin says the Canadian juniors may be the real test.
"Now that I've seen international competition, the Canadian juniors is an incredibly tough competition," said Scoffin, who will make his sixth appearance at the tournament.
His best finish so far is a 5-7 record in the round robin.
"It's a long grind and it takes a lot of hard work to make it through the week," he said. "To finish on a positive note is probably one of the biggest accomplishments a Canadian curler could ever have."
He'll be familiar with at least one of his opponents as Derek Oryniak, the second who helped Scoffin win bronze in Austria, throws second stones for Winnipeg's Kyle Doering.
"I'm looking forward to that game for sure," said Scoffin. "It's late in the round robin so it could have a lot of meaning hopefully and it's going to be a great game."
Doering won the Manitoba junior title at 16 to become one of the youngest skips to capture the crown in a province where good curlers abound.
"I've been looking on the website every day since we won," said Doering, who celebrated his birthday in December.
He acknowledges he lacks the experience that Scoffin and the other returning curlers enjoy.
"In curling, experience is everything," said the young skip, who led his team to a bronze at last year's Canada Games. "At my club we play against guys who are 60 and 70 and they kick my butt."
Alberta leads at the juniors with 15 men's titles since 1950. Saskatchewan has won a leading 11 junior women's titles since their national event started in 1971.
Saskatchewan won both the men's and women's titles last year. Trish Paulsen went on to capture silver at the world juniors while Braeden Moskowy finished fourth.
On the men's side this year, Saskatchewan is represented by Brady Scharback, 18, of the Granite Curling Club in Saskatoon. He's making his first appearance but came home with a silver from the Canada Games.
A newcomer also captured the provincial junior women's title. Kristen Streifel, 16, is the daughter of 2006 women's provincial champ Tracy Streifel.
"After watching her I knew it was what I wanted to do so it's pretty exciting to follow in her footsteps," said the Saskatoon native, who also understands the value of experience.
"This is my first year skipping . . . With four more years to go in juniors, we're hoping we can build off this and in the years to come we're hoping for good things," she said.
Returning veterans on the men's side this year include Colin Thomas of Newfoundland and Labrador, who finished third last year then won the Canadian university title.
Brendan Bottcher, 20, of Edmonton is back after a year's absence while Josh Barry of Fredericton is returning as a skip. He was there in 2010 and curled third for Jon Rennie last year.
Josh Hozack of Victoria will make his first and last appearance as he turns 21 two days before the event starts.
Brennan Wark, 19, of Thunder Bay is representing Northern Ontario while Brett DeKoning, 20, of the Omemee Curling Cub will skip Ontario.
Alex Matters, 16, of Charlottetown, will skip and throw third rocks for P.E.I. while Felix Asselin, 17, of the Glenmore Curling Club in Montreal leads the Quebec entry.
Daniel Murray, 17, of Yellowknife is making his first appearance at the juniors but he threw third stones for Northwest Territories skip David Aho at the Canada Games.
Stuart Thompson, 19, of Halifax is skipping for the first time but last year he was Kendal Thompson's second at the juniors.
On the women's side, Northern Ontario's Kendra Lilly, 20, from Sudbury, is back for her fourth appearance. She placed third in 2010. Yukon's Sarah Koltun, 18, is making her sixth appearance.
Other returning skips are Erica Trickett, 20, of Newfoundland and Labrador, Taryn Williams, 17, of Northwest Territories, Sarah Fullerton, 20, of P.E.I. and New Brunswick's Jennifer Armstrong, 19.
A couple of Canada Games skips are making their first appearances. Emily Dwyer, 18, is skipping the Nova Scotia entry while Alberta's Jocelyn Peterman of Red Deer won silver in Halifax.
Ontario is skipped by Jamie Sinclair, 19, of the Manotick Curling Centre. Roxane Perron, 20, is skipping the Quebec entry out of the Victoria Curling Club in Ste-Foy and the Etchemin Curling Club in St. Romauld.
Shannon Birchard, 17, of Winnipeg is skipping Manitoba and Kesa Van Osch, 20, is bringing her Nanaimo, B.C. foursome.