Is it a special gift?? Kinda... In m opinion and correct me if you think I am wrong, but this advantage comes from being able to process the play faster than other players.
Here is an example of how most of us have experienced this. We play hockey with little kids or even just watch them play. When we play we against them, we can see the play develop and go to where the puck is obviously going to go. The little kids cannot process the play developing as fast as we can, so we look like Hockey Gods to them. When we watch them play, we are constantly trying to get them to go to where the play is going, by yelling "Johnny, get to the boards for the wrap or get to the side of the net for the rebound." Now obviously if Johnny saw the play the way we do he could score 10 goals a game even if he is merely average in skill.
You see what I am getting at. They reason they are in position all the time or get to the open spots, it that they read the play and react, taking their first step in the direction of the opening or play developing while the other players are still reading the play. So as long as you are a decent skater for the level you are playing you have a one step advantage and that is a huge difference at all levels.
Ok, so how do we develop this. There is no one way to do this, but more of a combination in no order:
- Increase our reaction time. (work on a quick first step)
- Understand the flow of the game (Walter Gretzky used to have Wayne trace out on a piece of paper that path of the puck when watching NHL games, so I have heard)
- Work on seeing more of the ice (seeing where everyone is before you get the puck, or before.