Gabriel Landeskog's 2017-18 season was one to remember as the captain of the Colorado Avalanche helped the club to a 47-point turnaround and a berth into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
He led the team in takeaways (54) and ended with a plus/minus rating of plus-16, ranking second on the team. He finished the year with 62 points (25 goals, 37 assists), the second most in a season for his career (65, 2013-14).
Early in the 2017-18 season, Landeskog had a once in a lifetime opportunity to play NHL games in his hometown of Stockholm, Sweden. The Avalanche played the Ottawa Senators on Nov. 10-11 in the 2017 NHL Global Series at Ericsson Globe, just 20-minutes from where he grew up.
It wasn't the first time Landeskog was part of NHL hockey in Sweden as he was in attendance as an 8-year-old the last time Colorado visited 16 years earlier. He was in the stands of the Globe with his father watching Joe Sakic, Milan Hejduk, Patrick Roy and the rest of the Avs play Brynas IF of the Swedish Elite League on Sept. 17, 2001 in the NHL Challenge series.
This time, he was taking the ice as an NHLer in his hometown.
"That's just pure excitement," Landeskog said at the time. "You're so excited to have everybody here and you want to share it. I want to make sure I tell [my teammates] a little bit about certain things, whether it is the Royal Castle on the other side or certain parks around downtown. You want to give them some inside scoop and tell them some of the best restaurants. I never thought I'd see the day, but here we are."
While being the team tour guide, taking the time to visit family and buying tickets to the games (lots and lots of tickets), Landeskog soaked in every moment of what was sure a memory that will last a lifetime.
Video: Gabriel Landeskog on playing games in Stockholm
In his and the team's return to the United States, the 6-foot-1, 215-pound left wing recorded one of the best games of his career. In Colorado's first home game back at Pepsi Center on Nov. 16 against the Washington Capitals, Landeskog recorded his first career NHL hat trick.
His first goal came 17 seconds into the first period, the fastest goal to begin a game by an Avalanche player since Feb. 15, 2009 (0:16, Ian Laperriere at Detroit).
The captain's second tally of the game came during his first-ever penalty shot. After debating whether to shoot high or low with teammates Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, Landeskog decided to shoot high and found an opening in the net.
"I was talking to Mikko and Nate, I hadn't really made up my mind," Landeskog said of his strategy. "Mikko said come in and shoot low blocker. I came in and I didn't really feel that, so I just slowed down and tried to flick it high blocker, and it worked. I'm not really a shootout specialist by any means, but I was able to sneak that one in."
Landeskog tapped in his final goal of the night with 25.2 seconds remaining and the Avalanche won 6-2.
"It felt good to get that third one," Landeskog said after the game. "I had a couple of good looks before. It was a great team win."
Video: WSH@COL: Landeskog notches first career hat trick
A month later, Landeskog registered his 300th point in an Avalanche jersey on Dec. 16 versus the Tampa Bay Lightning. The forward recorded five points and his second career hat trick in the contest at Pepsi Center, but Colorado lost 6-5. The Avs came up short in what would have been a memorable comeback as the squad nearly erased a four-goal deficit.
In the final minute of play, Landeskog had an opportunity to tie the game, but he missed on a shot while the Tampa goalie was momentarily out of position.
"I think it is something when it is all said and done, maybe at the end of the season or at the end of your career, you sit down and maybe that was a cool night and was a lot of fun," Landeskog said of his big game. "It would have been a lot better if I put that last one in, too."
Landeskog became only the second player in Avalanche history to record four points in a single period (Peter Forsberg had five in the third period on March 3, 1999 at Florida) in the contest and the first Avs player to have two hat tricks in one season since Milan Hejduk in 2006-07.
With about a month left in the regular season, Landeskog recorded a career-best plus-4 rating on March 2 versus the Minnesota Wild. Paired with linemates MacKinnon and Rantanen, the trio combined for 10 points in the outing that ended in a 7-1 win.
"Your first line has got to be driving the boat, and we are making sure that we are leading," said Landeskog after the win. "That's what we kind of wanted to do tonight, just come out and lead the charge right off the get go and we did that."
On March 26, the 25-year-old Swede became the first player from the 2011 NHL Draft to reach the 500-game mark and only the fifth draft pick in Avalanche history (since 1995-96) to do so. The left wing finished the regular season strong by recording three-points (one goal, two assists) and a career-high 10 hits to help Colorado clinch a playoff spot in the finale on April 7 against the St. Louis Blues.
"What a night, this is one heck of a group. I don't think I have ever been part of a group with such team chemistry," said Landeskog postgame. "Whether we made [the playoffs] or not, I would still be really proud of this group. This is a big accomplishment to obviously make it after such a tough season last year, but we are not done."
Video: Landeskog on the Avs going to the playoffs
Following the regular season, Landeskog went on to lead the Avalanche with four goals and seven points in six games during his second appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"I'm sure it's a feel-good story for everybody from where we were 12 months ago to here, and to a certain extent it is to this group as well and the guys that were here--but you always want more," Landeskog said following the series against the Nashville Predators. "Unless you win the last game of the season in June, I don't think you're ever going to be satisfied."
Coming off a successful year and still wanting more, the captain will look to provide more leadership and build on the team's experiences as it enters 2018-19 campaign.