Yuzuru Hanyu recovered well from an opening fall to take the short program on his seasonal debut at the Autumn Classic International.
The double Olympic figure skating champion hit the deck when attempting a quad Salchow, under-rotating and going over on his right ankle.
But he managed to continue and landed a flawless triple Axel followed by a fine quad toe loop-triple toe loop combination, retaining the same jumping elements from last season as well as the music 'Otonal'.
The Japanese was given a warm ovation by the fans inside the Sixteen Mile Sports Complex and, despite looking less than happy in the 'kiss and cry', received a score of 98.38 to put him into the lead.
Hanyu was a little disappointed with his skate and knows his needs to improve.
He told reporters afterwards, "The free and the short programs, I want to complete them with no mistakes. So I want to jump more carefully and I want to repeat the good jumps over and over again."
He also voiced his concerns over his quad Salchow:
"I can't go on like this. There's no point if I can't land it at a competition."
Second was Kevin Aymoz who had the crowd firmly on his side as he recorded a big personal best.
The Frenchman, skating to Prince's 'A Question of U', landed a quad toe loop and a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination before just stepping out on his closing triple Axel.
But this marked a leap forward for the energetic crowd-pleaser who smashed through the 90-point barrier for the first time with 94.76.
Afterwards, the 22-year-old told reporters that he was "really happy" with his performance:
"I was so stressed because it was the first competition of the season and a new program. You're thinking if it's going to give something to people and they're going to be happy to see it so I just wanted to 'give the show' and do what I did before.
"It's really fun to skate this program and even if I do six falls - maybe not six falls - people are going to remember the program and not the falls." - Kevin Aymoz
He also admitted that he "regretted" his new bleached-blond look.
"It was the worst thing I did in the world. I tried to dye it grey. It was beautiful for three weeks, a beautiful grey, silver. And after, the colour disappeared and my hair's still blond because I bleached the hair. I can't wait until the end of the competition to cut my hair!"
Third was Keegan Messing who skated to Ed Sheeran's 'Perfect' which was also the song for the first dance at his wedding in August.
He managed to tough out his opening quad toe loop-triple toe loop combination but then landed a triple Axel and a triple Lutz before ending his routine with an impressive sequence of spins.
The Alaska-born Canadian scored 89.57 to send Hanyu's training colleague Junhwan Cha out of the podium places.
The Korean lacked accuracy on his jumps although he has increased the difficulty from last season.
He under-rotated on his opening quad Salchow-triple toe loop combination and did the same with a quad toe loop before landing a solid triple Axel.
Camden Pulkinen of the United States and another Toronto Cricket Club pupil, Conrad Orzel, finished fifth and sixth respectively after both landing quad jumps.
Men's practice recap
Practice did not go completely to plan for Hanyu in Oakville.
Skating fourth in the first group, he landed a potential free skate combination - quad toe loop-Euler-triple toe loop - before embarking on his short program run-through.
He opened with a excellent quad Salchow and triple Axel, but stepped out midway through his attempted quad toe loop-triple toe loop combination and had to curtail what had been a pretty vigorous and intense practice run.
Hanyu soon got back into his routine which included a superb step sequence and a spectacular high leap into the air.
And the 24-year-old managed to land that quad toe loop-triple toe loop combination after the music had ended.
Hanyu's training partner Junhwan Cha also impressed in practice, nailing a quad Salchow and quad toe loop in his session.
The Korean's short program music is 'Michelangelo 70' and 'La Muerte del Angel', both by Astor Piazzolla.
In the second session, Keegan Messing's spins at the end of his run-through were nothing short of immaculate.
Camden Pulkinen of the United States also took the eye with a triple Axel and a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combo.
Donovan Carrillo jumped well early in practice but fell on his triple Axel in his run-through.
Mexico is not exactly known for winter sports, but Carrillo is hoping to follow the example of Javier Fernandez in achieving success despite hailing from a warm-weather country.