The Tigers started the 2018-19 season under Nikolai Borshchevsky, who however failed to lead Amur at the second straight postseason qualification.
Borshchevsky was fired on January 12, after a loss in the Far East Derby against the team's rivals Admiral Vladivostok. Alexander Gulyavtsev was hired as the new head coach, but he couldn't change everything overnight. The Tigers lost the first five games under Gulyavtsev, but then Amur defeated Salavat Yulaev twice, then Admiral, Kunlun, and Avangard. The team had a strong finish of the regular season, but they couldn't leave the bottom of the standings.
Alexander Gulyavtsev, who started his coaching career in his hometown, Perm, so far has worked in the KHL only for teams who not only fight fiercely to reach the postseason, but also to stay in the league. He sensationally led Severstal to the playoffs two years ago, when Cherepovets was on the bottom of the KHL's organizational rankings. Gulyavtsev is used to work with teams with limited resources as he learned from his experience in the VHL.
Gulyavtsev himself doesn't hide to try to build his team seeking inspiration from Team Finland at the recent IIHF World Championship in Slovakia. He will be assisted by Pavel Torgayev, who worked with him in Cherepovets, and Alexander Yudin, one of the few former Russian hockey's enforcers.
Goalies: Nikita Konvisser (try-out; HC Dvur Kralove nad Labem, Czech 3)
Defensemen: Valery Vasilyev (trade; Metallurg), Ondrej Vitasek (Kunlun), Alexander Igoshev (Metallurg), Dmitry Shulenin (Dinamo Riga)
Forwards: Sergei Zhilov (try-out; Krasnaya Armiya, JHL), Hynek Zohorna (Pelicans, Finland), Maxim Kapiturov (trade; Torpedo U-K, VHL), Vladislav Karpus (try-out; Gheorgheni, Romania), Alexander Pankov (try-out; Toros, VHL), Valentin Razumak (try-out; CSK VVS, VHL), Nikita Sorotkin (try-out; Admiral), Nikita Yazkov (trade; Metallurg).
Goalies: Alexey Murygin
Defensemen: Vitaly Atyushov (Neftekhimik), Dmitry Vorobyov, Marek Hrbas, Jan Kolar (Dynamo Pardubice, Czech Republic), Denis Kuzmin
Forwards: Pavel Dedunov (Avangard), Valentin Pyanov (trade; Avangard).
Amur's offseason could be summarized in three directions: the team tried to improve the goaltending, refreshed the defense, but couldn't keep two crucial offensive players. Losing Alexei Murygin wasn't a disaster for Amur, considering that the team can count on a solid starter in Marek Langhamer and two younger options to back him up in Evgeny Kiselyov and his namesake Alikin. Regarding defensemen, the Tigers lost two leaders in Vitaly Atyushov and Jan Kolar, and other two experienced players, Vladimir Vorobyov and Marek Hrbas also won't line up for Amur next year. However, the team signed another player from the Czech Republic, Ondrej Vitasek, significantly younger than Kolar.
If Amur managed to find substitutes on defense with two young blueliners with substantial KHL experience like Valery Vasilyev and Dmitry Shulenin, they weren't able to retain forwards Valentin Pyanov and Pavel Dedunov. Both players will line up for Avangard next year. To substitute them, the Tigers mostly tried to find a diamond in the raw signing players from the VHL, but also signed the Czech international Hynes Zohorna, brother of Tomas Zohorna. The 28-years-old forward had a breakout season last year in Finland, and at the IIHF World Championship in Slovakia, he looked like a KHL-caliber player.
In the first test games, Amur's nominal first line made up of Alexander Gorshkov, Kirill Rasskazov, and Igor Rudenkov was on fire. In particular, Rudenkov posted a double against Admiral. However, this happened without the Zohorna brothers. The former Torpedo forward has all it takes to have a breakout season, but of course, the Czechs will have more room and time on ice. Tomas Zohorna is at his fifth season in the KHL, he knows very well the team and the league, and he is an authority in the locker room. In the end, you won't meet any other player in the Tigers' roster who is regularly playing at the WC and Olympics level.
Many are awaiting big things from Artur Bultanov, who couldn't find himself a regular spot in the Metallurg's lineup, and from Maxim Kapiturov, one of the top scorers last year in the VHL. However, the first turned 22, and the latter – 23. This means that the almost two-meter tall defenseman Nikita Alexandrov can become the main project player next year for the Tigers. Alexandrov signed in Khabarovsk last year but only played in the JHL. This year, the native of Kurgan, who also played in the Ontario Hockey League, is waiting his first season as a pro. Considering his size and the fact that he is a right-handed defenseman, he should have a good chance.
If the Tigers manage to end the regular season on top of their Far East rivals, it will be considered a good season. This year, Amur won't feature a young, promising defenseman like Artyom Zub, Team Russia-bound players like Alexei Byvaltsev, or top-level foreigners as Juha Metsola. Moreover, they also lost a couple of veteran defensemen.
Today, Amur has a coach who can ask his players what they are capable of doing. They have a creative forward in Igor Rudenkov, but only one player is hardly enough. Interestingly, the Tigers can count on two couples of brothers. Amur's successes in the next season will mostly depend on the Zohorna and Ushenins connection.