Be a good student ... even during the game!
One thing youth players (particularly from the PeeWee level and up) need to learn is to be observant at all times. Players should always watch, listen and emulate the techniques and positional play lessons coaches are providing. Additionally, when watching a game on TV players, should focus of what the players that play their positions are doing during they game. Watch where they go in the defensive zone, where they position themselves in the offensive zone, what they do when they have better numbers (or worse numbers) on the rush.
All of this observation will allow players to develop better instincts and a blue print (or for you gamers ... cheat codes) for how to make the best possible decisions/plays when placed in similar situations. The more situational awareness a player develops the more effective they will be when the puck drops.
However, this situational awareness and observation shouldn't just be limited to practice and watching college and pro games on TV, but should also be employed in real time during a players own games. For instance, a forward should be studying the
tendencies of the opposing teams defenseman so they can learn how to exploit potential weaknesses later in the game. Maybe a certain defenseman on the other team is very slow, making him (or her) vulnerable to speed. Maybe a certain defenseman is overly aggressive and pinches in the offensive zone too much, and could be exposed with a chip and chase off the boards.
Gaining an edge on a player may be the key difference in winning or losing games. Only by being observant during the game can a player can pinpoint areas to attack the opposition on. Time spent on the bench should be time spent observing and then communicating what you have learned to your line mates.