"I've actually never been to a press conference; I've never been in first place," she exclaimed to reporters following the short program in the fourth of this season's six Grand Prix events.
Rika Hongo of Japan was second, less than two points behind, closely followed by Anna Pogorilaya of Russia.
Russians swept the short program in pairs, topped by Olympic team gold medallists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, followed by Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, and Kristina Astakhova and Alexei Rogonov, both pairs in their maiden season of international senior competition.
Chartrand, from Prescott, Ont., is also in her first season on the senior circuit. She appeared assured right from the start, opening with a double axel, quickly followed by a soaring triple lutz in combination with a triple toe loop.
After placing seventh at Skate Canada two weeks ago, "I was looking to improve on that. I really just wanted to have big jumps, clean jumps," she said.
Hongo started with a strong pair of triple toe loops, but Pogorilaya's opening combo went awry when she stepped out of the first jump, a triple lutz.
The Russian, who won gold at Skate Canada, said skating before home-country fans "was a colossal experience ... despite the errors I made."
What went wrong wasn't clear to her. "I was lacking something, missing something."
Stolbova and Klimov were the most conceptually adventurous of the pairs, with their program to "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" that drew on martial arts moves.
This was a strategic choice as well as an artistic one, Klimov said, noting that the next world championships are in Shanghai and the pair wants to appeal to the local crowd.
"Martial arts are very popular in China," he said.
Mirai Nagasu and Ashley Cain of the United States were in fourth and fifth after the women's short program, with enough points to medal if their free skates are strong. Fellow Americans Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier were fourth after the pairs short program, but 15 points behind the leaders.