Almost from the minute they were drafted, Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel have subtly made it clear they don't much care for the inevitable comparisons between them.
It started back in October, when Eichel stated matter of factly that the star rookies "weren't friends," after the draft process that ended with McDavid being taken No. 1 by the Edmonton Oilers and Eichel going No. 2 to the Buffalo Sabres.
"I don't really know him," Eichel said last fall. "I don't have his number. We were friendly when we were together in different situations, but that was really it. He's a good kid, so I got to know him a little bit in person."
Speaking Monday before the Oilers boarded a plane to Buffalo for Tuesday's game against the Sabres, McDavid pretty much echoed those sentiments.
"It’s tough to say. I’ve never talked to him about it or anything like that, so I don’t really know his feeling," McDavid said when asked if he felt any added level of competitiveness for Tuesday's game given their history. "For me personally, it’s not really too much of a big deal. We got drafted together sure, but other than that we don’t really share that much in common. He plays in the East, I play in the West. He went to school, I played in junior. So we’re basically opposites in that sense, so for us personally, it’s not much to it."
McDavid said he got to know Eichel on a "basic level," leading up to the draft, but that's it.
"Share a couple words and all that," he said. "But for me, I was there with" Dylan Stromer and Mitch Marner and Lawson Crouse, "guys that I knew very well going in, so I spent a lot time with them and just tried to share that whole draft experience with the guys I was close with."
That's not to say McDavid isn't looking forward to his first trip to Buffalo as a pro. He's plenty pumped for the game, but less because of a head-to-head matchup with Eichel and more because he'll have family in the stands and friends from his old junior team in Erie, Pa., coming up.
"I'm more excited about the game for that sense," he told Edmonton reporters.
McDavid and Eichel will face each other in a game for the first time since New Year's Eve 2014, when they were respectively part of Team Canada and Team USA in the World Juniors tournament.
The comparisons between the two started before that game, and have continued ever since, meaning McDavid knows what's coming Tuesday.
"I’m sure it’s going to be pretty well covered" in the media, he said. "I think everyone expects that, but I think for the both of us, it’s just another game. You know, yeah, I mean it’ll be … just another game."