The moment is finally here, folks. Welcome to The Leafs Nation‘s 2019 Toronto Maple Leafs prospect rankings!

As we announced last week to uproarious (read: non-existent) fanfare, TLN has decided to change up the way we roll out our rankings in 2019, adopting a more streamlined “tier by tier” approach for this edition instead of the typical “#1-20” format from years past.

Why? Well, because we can. You’re not God, or our fathers…or our boss.

If you’re really curious, you can read all about why we shook things up here.

So, before we officially get down to business tomorrow, it seemed important to give you all the cliff notes on what the tiers actually are and what each specific one means.

Be sure to take notes, kids. This will all be on the final exam:

Tier #1: The Impact Players – Prospects who the TLN staff fully expect, if all goes according to plan, to one day make the cut and become contributors in the NHL of average to significant impact. They’re more or less “locks”, if you will. The set-it- and forget-it kids. As for whether any of these fellas will become superstars one day? That is yet to be determined. But you don’t have to worry about them earning defined roles for themselves on the big club in the near future.

Tier #2: The Maybes – Prospects who could very well break into the “Impact Player” tier above with a hefty dose of hard work (or luck). That being said, each “Maybe” harbours an issue or two in their respective games that could one day be held responsible for holding them back. These players all have talent. That’s not the issue here. It’s whether that talent can ultimately win out over those blemishes that will determine their futures in the end. Hence; the “maybe”.

Tier #3: The Fence-Sitters – Now we’re venturing into no-man’s land. Fence-Sitters are the prospects whose careers simultaneously teeter on the verge of potential NHL employment and organizational irrelevance, susceptible to even the slightest push in either direction. At this point, these players need to choose which side of the fence they’ll eventually fall on – some faster than others. For a select few, though, the choice may not be in their hands anymore.

Tier #4: The Long Shots – Otherwise known as the “Don’t Hold Your Breath” squad, the Long Shots are prospects who, if you ever see them skate in a single regular-season game for the Toronto Maple Leafs, a miracle is almost certainly responsible. We can’t write these guys off completely quite yet, though – an unexpected surge could still be waiting to come. After all, nothing is impossible in this wacky sport we call hockey. But we wouldn’t bet on it. Their odds are, well, long. Hey, that’s the name!

Tier #5: The Longest Shots – Yeah, these guys ain’t making it. The Longest Shots is comprised of prospects whose names elicit a chorus of “Who?” or “Oh yeeeeaaaaaaaaah, that guy! He’s still around?” reactions from those who happen to read them. Their presence within the Leafs organization basically begins and ends on Elite Prospects. Frankly, most of these players are Leafs property in theory alone; destined for use as mid-June filler by content-hungry publications (like us!) when management inevitably allows their signing rights to expire in a year or two. The Longest Shots not only stand at the lowest rung of the organizational ladder, but find themselves chained to it, too.

And there you have it. Now that you’re fully educated on the rules, let the games begin!