Fantasy hockey's buy-low trade candidates

If you get a chance to add Vladimir Tarasenko to your fantasy hockey roster in time for Christmas, you may well end up with a very happy new year as a result! Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Following last week's round-up of "sell-high" candidates from around the league, we're back to take a look at some underachieving performers who are rostered in the majority of ESPN.com leagues. These are the players you should be targeting via trade, with the idea they might be soon turning their season around.

Conversely, if you happen to already have some of these guys on your roster, consider remaining patient with them through these leaner times. After all, the NHL's holiday break is only days away, which means hockey's built-in "reset button" might provide a chance for these players to recharge their proverbial batteries.

Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, St. Louis Blues (rostered in 98.0 percent of ESPN leagues): The subject of some real-life trade talk of late, the Blues' top winger is due to improve going forward, regardless of which uniform he wears. Having a healthy Jaden Schwartz back on his line after almost a month is a huge plus. Besides, he almost certainly has to improve upon his current 8.7 shooting percentage. The 27-year-old's career average sits at 12.7 percent. He might not score 40 total goals this season, but 30 isn't too much to ask from the imposing forward. Even with that smaller projection, Tarasenko owes us another 20 goals or so. Anticipate a surge from him in January.

William Nylander, RW, Toronto Maple Leafs (94.0 percent): Six games into his 2018 campaign following the lengthy holdout and Nylander has a grand total of two assists to offer fantasy managers and throngs of Maple Leafs fans. We're not in panic mode just yet, but another week or so of the same lack of results will undoubtedly wear upon the collective patience of both groups. Yet, there's little chance this gifted winger doesn't erupt once he finally gets up to speed. Playing on Auston Matthews' wing (in place of Kasperi Kapanen) should be where you'll soon find him in the not-too-distant future.

Casey Mittelstadt, C, Buffalo Sabres (78.2 percent): Hey, he's young and it takes time to adjust, especially at the center position. Shooting the puck more will help matters, which is exactly what the newly turned 20-year-old is being encouraged to do. A brief holiday break should help Mittelstadt snap out of his funk. Centering on any team's scoring line and secondary power play should yield more than 0.29 points per game. Fear not. He'll get better.

Mats Zuccarello, RW, New York Rangers (65.8 percent): Badgered by a lingering groin issue for a good portion of the season, Zuccarello finally appears to be fit again. Feel free to launch a modest offer for the veteran winger before he starts racking up production. Points could start coming in bunches, as he skates on a No. 1 Rangers top line and power play alongside C Mika Zibanejad. After all, the 31-year-old ran at a near point-per-game pace through most of October before getting hurt.

Tyler Toffoli, RW, Los Angeles Kings (65.2 percent): First of all, he's back skating with C Jeff Carter, which is helpful. Also, the 26-year-old is a much better player than his single assist in 14 games would suggest. Keep in mind that he scored 24 goals just last year. Averaging 4.4 shots per game this December, it's not like he isn't trying. Watch the floodgates open fast once Toffoli finally starts to hit the target and light the lamp.

Tom Wilson, RW, Washington Capitals (63.2 percent): Since returning from his concussion, Wilson has yet to reclaim his spot on Alex Ovechkin's line. That appears to be turning off some fantasy managers. However, in short order, he has still managed to collect a goal, an assist and seven PIM (including a five-minute major for pounding the stuffing out of, and injuring, Penguins defenseman Jamie Oleksiak). Clearly, competing alongside Evgeny Kuznetsov isn't too lousy of a consolation prize. What's more, we figure it's only a matter of time before the polarizing winger finds himself returning to Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, in place of T.J. Oshie. He had seven goals and six assists in a stretch of eight games on that line earlier in the season. Like the guy or not, he's indisputably a fantasy gem in most conventional league formats.

Dougie Hamilton, D, Carolina Hurricanes (90.1 percent): Coach Rod Brind'Amour recently spoke to reporters about Hamilton's dud of a season following his trade from Calgary. He said: "He's got to be better. There's no question, in my opinion. He knows it. We've talked about it. He's supposed to be one of our best defensemen. We expect more. Not offensively. To me, he's going to make those plays and create offense, but he hasn't had any luck at all. He's had some real good looks this year and nothing's gone in for him. But he needs to play hard away from the puck, too."

While altogether dissatisfied with Hamilton's play otherwise, Carolina's bench boss is apparently still willing to blame "bad luck" for the defenseman's poor fortune and a measly point total of 10. After having scored 17 goals last season, the 25-year-old has only three so far this time around -- on 109 shots. That is indeed a ridiculously poor conversion rate, and, fortunately, one that is unlikely to remain that low.

Will Butcher, D, New Jersey Devils (68.1 percent): With only three points in his past 19 games, Butcher is falling well short of the 0.54 points-per-game pace set in his rookie season. Nevertheless, the 23-year-old sophomore is still seeing top-four minutes and anchoring the Devils' No. 1 power play. He'll snap out of it soon enough. Consider making an offer for Butcher if your fantasy blue-line sports some holes.

Mikhail Sergachev, D, Tampa Bay Lightning (58.6 percent): Despite firing the puck on net 62 times, Sergachev has no goals to show for the effort. Zero. Nada. None. The 20-year-old scored nine times in his rookie season, adding 31 assists in the process, so we're expecting some improvement here in his second season. He's only recently fallen off the secondary power-play unit again, but odds are good the demotion there is only temporary. Ryan McDonagh simply isn't the better full-time option there. Now is the perfect time to reach out to the young blue-liner's fantasy manager and talk trade. A successful turnaround is clearly in the cards. This kid is too skilled and too talented to struggle for too much longer.