The Toronto Rock got an unexpected shot in the arm when Jordan Magnuson rejoined their lineup halfway through the 2018 season.
Magnuson was a rookie in 2017, playing 17 games as a defenseman with two goals and seven assists while going 119-269 on face offs.
After being signed to a three-year contract in the summer, he played the first two games of the season in December before being sidelined with injuries. He didn’t play again until March 11th.
But the time off was beneficial, he said.
“I felt better about my game at the end of the season than I did the first two games, that’s for sure. This year was a roller coaster with lots of up and downs. I feel like started to get back to my game once I got back in the lineup and got back into the swing of things.”
Magnuson is a capable defender, to be sure, but the impact he had on the lineup was somewhat unexpected. Toronto’s offense dominated the early part of the season, so people weren’t as focused on their defense. As the team then struggled offensively without Tom Schreiber, the spotlight turned on the defense. While the team still lost more than they won down the stretch, a lot of games were close and not without effort.
Magnuson didn’t contribute offensively; that wasn’t his job. But he’s a likeable guy: the team enjoyed having him back on the floor with him. He helped glue the defense together, and boosted their morale. Those close-scoring games were a result of a close-knit defense.
He was especially good for the rookies on the team like Drew Belgrave and practice roster player Adam Jay, with whom he lived during the season.
“Living with them allowed me to gain a better relationship with them and try to help them out while listening to feedback from them because they’re two good lacrosse players,” Magnuson said. “It was nice to step onto the leadership side of the team because that’s something I was always part of through my junior career.”
Also developing more this year were Magnuson’s face off skills. He backs up Bradley Kri in this capacity, and took the majority of the face offs in Toronto’s last three games as Kri appeared to be suffering from an undisclosed injury that didn’t allow him to move around as required by face offs.
“[Kri] and I work together quite a bit on trying to focus on who’s coming up and what we need to focus on going into the next week,” Magnuson explained. “It’s all a week-to-week basis because each draw guy for each team has a different style so you have to adapt your game a little bit, be flexible and mold your game to other players and who you’re playing, but also stay true to what you know.”
Unfortunately, one of the games Magnuson took the reins at the dot was against Rochester on April 14th. It was the night that Jake Withers broke the NLL record for rookie face off wins. Magnuson understood that even as a rookie, Withers is a force, so he wasn’t too perturbed at his own stats that night.
“That was a tough matchup,” Magnuson chuckled. “He’s one of the best draw guys in the league so he’s a lot to handle.”
Overall, Magnuson finished 54-147 on the year for a 37% average. With a full season, that number probably would have been closer to the 44% he achieved as a rookie, but he learned a lot at the dot as he also began focusing more on picking up loose balls.
“Anything that touches the floor I want to try and battle for because once it touches the floor it’s anybody’s ball,” he said.
When I spoke with Magnuson, he was in talks with the Oakville Rock to spend his summer with them instead of returning home to British Columbia. A Coquitlam native, his Western Lacrosse Association rights belong to the Langley Thunder where he scored a goal and four assists in his rookie season last summer.
Magnuson considered staying in Oakville for the summer to continue to train under Rock head coach Matt Sawyer, but the Rock don’t have his MSL rights. It’s a long way from home, too.
“My mom would have missed me; she let me know that for sure,” Magnuson smiled.
Instead, he’ll return to the Thunder to continue his development, but Sawyer has confidence in Magnuson’s abilities and drive to get better.
“Jordan started the season with us and then he was scratched for almost a couple of months but he gave us a shot in the arm,” Sawyer said. “He’s somebody who really worked hard to get back in the lineup and when he got his opportunities he was real good for us. He should only get better.”
After two years, Magnuson is sold on the professional lacrosse life and already can’t wait for his third year to begin.
“Toronto is one of, if not the, best organizations in the league and it’s an absolute pleasure to play here. The more I can do to help myself and this team, that’s what my plan is.”